“With people, of course, populations are stronger and more disease-resistant if there’s more genetic diversity. The world’s bananas are under attack . Plants of one variety are genetic clones of the parent plant. “Maybe now, companies will be more interested in it.”. The Cavendish banana may have had a remarkable journey from colonial curiosity to global staple. Vote Now, U.S. May See 'Surge Upon Surge' of COVID-19, You can unsubscribe at any time. Knowledge of the problem, thanks to understanding of the issues facing crops like bananas, have led technologists to take steps to introduce artificial diversity into their systems. In fact, the entire banana supply chain is now set up to suit the very specific needs of that variety. TR4, which grows in the soil, kills the fruit and prevents more fruit from growing, was first detected on Southeast Asian farms in 1992. A deadly plant fungus has begun to infect banana crops in a region experts have long feared would be especially susceptible to disease. By signing up you are agreeing to our, Trump Administration Authorizes 'Cyanide Bombs' Again, Why Joe Biden Needs Mitch McConnell to Govern. So, what’s next for the banana? Even if the world’s relationship to bananas may never be the same, the lessons of the fruit can still save us from damage that could hit far beyond the produce aisle. Plus, multinational fruit companies had no other disease-resistant variety available that could be ready quickly for mass exportation. What does this mean for American consumers' favorite fruit and the star ingredient to many a smoothie? However, developing a plant that can endure the climate and terrain of South America, as well as mimic the appearance of a banana most people love, may take many, many years. Monoculture has its benefits. Follow her work on Contently. “To make a system artificially diverse, you just rearrange its guts in ways where the differences do not affect functionality in a material way,” Schneider says. Before the 1950s, Europe and America’s banana of choice was the Gros Michel – a creamier, sweeter banana that dominated the export market. The disease was serious and diagnosed in Panama banana plantations of Central America. And while even the most Cavendish-like of FHIA’s disease-resistant varieties, a banana known as the FHIA-18, hasn’t yet met the standards of multinational buyers, that may change, according to Adolfo Martinez, director general of FHIA. However, it has been the answer to similar problems in the past—for example, when the papaya ringspot virus threatened the papaya supply in the 1990s, “the major supply shock was averted through the development of a transgenic ringspot virus-resistant papaya,” explains Cornell’s Barrett. Microsoft implemented one of the first large-scale commercial developments of artificial diversity in their Windows OS system, by randomizing the internal locations where important pieces of system data were stored. The Cavendish banana may have had a remarkable journey from colonial curiosity to … Before the 1950s, Europe and America’s banana of choice was the Gros Michel – a creamier, sweeter banana that dominated the export market. Much of the world's bananas are of the Cavendish variety, which is endangered by a strain of Panama disease. The switched worked. Despite the availability of a tasty replacement, the disease still wiped out nearly all crop grown on Central and South American banana plantations and caused $2.3 billion in damage. According to the BBC, the Cavendish accounts for nearly half of bananas grown worldwide and nearly all of the bananas imported to the U.S., Europe and the U.K. This common banana is being threatened by a deadly disease. After years of attempting to keep it out of the Americas, in mid-2019, Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4), was discovered on banana … “It only takes a single clump of contaminated dirt, literally, to get this thing rampaging across entire continents.”. “It has all of the ingredients of equitability and sustainability issues, disease pressure, and climate change impact all in one. Because banana farmers are overwhelmingly growing the same exact crop—the Cavendish—they were all vulnerable to the same diseases. Back then, the most popular type of banana was the Gros Michel, so to combat the risk of infection to that type of banana, large growers like Chiquita and Dole switched to the Cavendish which, at the time, was immune to that strain of the disease. On Thursday, the Colombian agriculture and livestock authority (ICA) declared a national state of emergency after a new strain of the Panama disease (Tropical Race 4, which known in the science world as TR4), was identified at several banana farms on the country's coastal region. Save on the cover price & free e-Gift card for Giftees! Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our, What We Can Learn From the Near-Death of the Banana. Schneider points out that software monocultures are common because, without them, using your computer would be a lot harder. Tropical Race 4 infects Cavendish bananas—Australia’s most grown variety of banana—as well as most other varieties. But in the 1950s, the crop was swept by a strain of Panama disease, also known as banana wilt, brought on by the spread of a noxious, soil-inhabiting fungus. There’s a name for this situation: monoculture, the practice of fostering just one variety of something. It's a sweet, somewhat bland banana closely associated with large-scale operations like Dole and Chiquita. Frank Bienewald—LightRocket via Getty Images, A Colombian worker carries crude bananas to a transport car at a banana plantation. Desperate for a solution, the world’s banana farmers turned to the Cavendish.
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