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Bananas Could Become Extinct Due To 'Devastating' Disease

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Health experts caution that bananas may go extinct due to a deadly tropical disease that is sweeping across crops all around the world. The disease, known as the Panama disease, has already spread to Africa, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Central America.

Going Bananas

Researchers fear that if Panama disease reaches South America, the Cavendish banana, which is the most consumed banana worldwide, could face extinction. Health experts continue that chemical treatment has been ineffective at stopping the disease, only being able to stop the fungus by quarantining large swathes of farmland.

Cavendish bananas are very similar to each other, which makes it easier for the Panama disease to spread among entire harvest fields. In the United Kingdom, over five billion Cavendish bananas are eaten each year. Researchers suggest that a way to save the bananas could be in the form of the Madagascan tree.

The Madagascan tree grows unplantable, wild species of bananas that is immune to the Panama disease and researchers are trying to create a hybrid of the two species of bananas to produce an infection-resistant strain.

Save The Bananas

According to scientists, there are only five Madagascan trees in existence. Senior conservation assessor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Richard Allen, stated that the rare, disease-resistant species has certain characteristics that make it stronger than the Cavendish bananas.

Allen stated that the climate on the island has played a part in creating a banana that has tolerance to disease and drought. The Madagascar banana is different from the Cavendish bananas because it grows seeds and is distasteful, but if both strains are combined, it could create a hybrid that edible and durable.

Experts state that the Madagascar plant is from the island's rich floral heritage.

"We are hopeful that the work being done by scientists around the world to find a cure for the disease threatening the Cavendish banana will be successful," head gardener at Chatsworth, Steve Porter stated

Porter continued that they are proud of the banana's heritage and that they still grow the Madagascar plant in the greenhouse to ensure the future of the Cavendish bananas.

Panama disease, which originated in the 1950's is a fungal disease that attacks the banana's roots. The disease started in Panama and then spread to Central America. Panama disease cannot be chemically controlled and a particular strain is seen as a threat to the Cavendish bananas that grow in tropical far north Queensland.  

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