Banana-Geddon? Rapidly Spreading Disease Threatens a Favorite Fruit

Photo (cc) by torbakhopper

The banana as we know it is doomed, scientists are warning.

The world’s most popular fruit is being threatened by a new strain of Panama disease, a deadly pathogen that forced the once-popular Gros Michel banana nearly into extinction in the mid-1900s, The Washington Post reports.

Now Panama disease, in a new and more potent form known as Tropical Race 4, threatens Cavendish bananas, which replaced the sweet, creamy Gros Michel variety as the world’s top banana export. According to the Post, Cavendish bananas represent 99 percent of the banana market.

A new study published in PLOS Pathogens reveals that Tropical Race 4 is wreaking havoc on banana crops in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Australia, and will likely turn up in Latin America, where most of the world’s bananas for export are grown. It effectively wiped out banana crops in Taiwan.

According to the Post, the researchers say that “it’s not a question of whether Tropical Race 4 will infiltrate the mothership of global banana production; it’s a matter of when.”

Unfortunately, the deadly pathogen, which infects the root system of banana plants, cannot be cured. It’s spread through infected soil, water, root to root contact or contaminated equipment. The disease can also lie dormant for decades.

The long-lasting and aggressive disease is especially frightening considering the global dependence on Cavendish bananas, said Dr. Elizabeth Aitken, a University of Queensland associate professor in plant pathology.

“I do find it scary, relying on just one cultivar [Cavendish],” said Aitken, speaking with Australian Broadcasting Corp. Aitken added that it’s important to “put more effort into breeding other [banana] varieties.”

According to the Post, although dozens of varieties of bananas are grown around the world, commercially produced bananas are all the same.

This helps companies like Dole and Chiquita control for consistency and produce massive amounts of bananas on the cheap without having to deal with imperfections (it’s the reason why the fruit is so easy to find at supermarkets everywhere). But it also makes their bananas incredibly vulnerable to attacks from pests and disease. When you get rid of variety entirely, you risk exposing a crop to something it can neither cope with nor evolve to defend itself against.

If the Cavendish banana follows the same path as its predecessor, the Gros Michel, as is predicted, the world will need to find a new variety of commercial banana. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done.

“Developing new banana cultivars, however, requires major investments in research and development and the recognition of the banana as a global staple and cash crop that supports the livelihoods of millions of small-holder farmers,” according to the study published by PLOS Pathogens.

What do you think about the predicted wipeout of the commercial banana? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50
9 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal for Less Than $50

These products will instantly improve your home’s curb appeal without breaking the bank.

Here’s the Average Retirement Age in Your State
Here’s the Average Retirement Age in Your State

Are you on track to retire at the same age as most residents of your state?

5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down
5 Monthly Bills You Can Easily Negotiate Down

Here’s how to bring down recurring expenses and save hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars each year.

7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

9 Foods You Should Never Buy Again
9 Foods You Should Never Buy Again

Make the wrong food choices, and you can ruin your health — and possibly shorten your life.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco
11 Things Retirees Should Always Buy at Costco

This leader in bulk shopping is a great place to find discounts in the fixed-income years.

Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines
Over 50? The CDC Says You Need These 4 Vaccines

Fall is the time to schedule vaccines that can keep you healthy — and even save your life.

11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older
11 Senior Discounts for Anyone Age 55 or Older

There is no need to wait until you’re 65 to take advantage of so-called “senior” discounts.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies
8 Things You Can Get for Free at Pharmacies

In this age of higher-priced drugs and complex health care systems, a trip to the pharmacy can spark worry. Freebies sure do help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America
The 10 Most Commonly Stolen Vehicles in America

A new model parks atop the list of vehicles that thieves love to pilfer.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast
7 Ways to Boost Your Credit Score Fast

Your financial security might soon depend upon the strength of your credit score.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

These jobs pay more than the typical job in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required.

10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62
10 Reasons Why You Should Actually Retire at 62

If you can, here are several good reasons to retire earlier than we’re told to.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19
Do This in the Car If You Want to Avoid COVID-19

It takes just seconds to take this simple preventive measure.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles
5 Keys to Making Your Car Last for 200,000 Miles

Pushing your car to 200,000 miles — and beyond — can save you piles of cash. Here’s how to get there.

26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income
26 States That Do Not Tax Social Security Income

These states won’t tax any of your Social Security income — and in some cases, other types of retirement income.

14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare
14 Things That Are ‘Free’ With Medicare

These services could save you money and help prevent costly health problems.

5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees
5 Things That Make Life More Meaningful for Retirees

Retirees agree: These are the things that give them purpose and fulfillment in their golden years.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.