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Climate Change Favors Growth Of Fungus That Causes Banana Disease Black Sigatoka

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Climate change favors the growth of a fungus that causes disease among bananas, a new study revealed. The findings of the report could have major implications on the food supply.  ( Dan Bebber )

Climate change has not only caused the rapid melting of the world's largest ice shelves and the endangerment of animal species, but it also has a huge impact on food.

A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter revealed that climate change favors the growth of a fungus that causes a fungal disease known as black sigatoka among bananas.

The findings of the study, which have been issued in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, point to a growing need to lessen the carbon footprint as climate change has a negative effect on the food supply.

The Spread Of Banana Disease Black Sigatoka Is Due To Climate Change

First reported in Honduras in 1972, black sigatoka is a fungal disease that ravages bananas.

Black sigatoka is caused by a fungus called Pseudocercospora fijiensis whose lifecycle is determined by weather and climate. The Pseudocercospora fijiensis spreads through aerial spores, and it infects banana leaves by causing streaked lesions and cell death.

Now, years later, the new study revealed that black sigatoka has invaded banana plantations in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the state of Florida.

Researchers from the University of Exeter combined data on black sigatoka infections with detailed climate information collected in over 60 years.

The research team discovered that changes in moisture and temperature triggered by climate change have increased the risk of black sigatoka by more than 44 percent in the abovementioned areas.

Dr. Daniel Bebber, one of the researchers of the study, explained that climate change has made temperatures favorable for better spore germination and growth of the fungus that causes black sigatoka.

Climate change has also made canopies wetter, which boosts the risk of black sigatoka infection in banana-growing areas of Latin America.

In 1998, black sigatoka spread throughout Brazil, and in the late 2000s, it spread to the Caribbean islands of St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Martinique, and the Grenadines. The disease is now found as far north as Florida.

On the other hand, despite the heightened risk of black sigatoka in Latin America, Bebber said drier conditions in Mexico and Central America have actually reduced the risk of infection.

How Banana Disease Black Sigatoka Impacts Food Supply

Bananas are not only delicious, but they're also really healthy. Because bananas are high in potassium, scientists found that these staple fruits can protect the arteries against calcification or hardening. A study showed that mice that were given food with low-potassium had higher risk for vascular calcification than mice that ate food with normal potassium levels.

There's a reason to be alarmed over the spread of black sigatoka: plants that are infected with disease often produce up to 80 percent less fruit. This means that banana plants infected with black sigatoka could yield smaller banana crops with potentially more expensive prices.

What's more, when bananas are ravaged with disease, it causes enormous problems for growers. It can force growers to switch to different types of bananas that are more resistant to disease but has lesser yields.

Additionally, the spread of black sigatoka among bananas is not the first disease that has threatened to wipe out these plants. In 2018, a study revealed that a deadly tropical disease called Panama disease has swept across crops all over Africa, Asia, Australia, Central America, and the Middle East.

"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," Steve Porter, head gardener at Chatsworth, said.

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