Are Bananas Really Going Extinct?

Globally, people consume more than 100 billion bananas annually. The majority of that quantity is made up of the Cavendish banana, which is the most popular kind. It might not be long until that alters, though. The New York Post initially reported a few days ago that bananas may soon become extinct. It is a particular kind of fungal disease that threatens Cavendish bananas. Divergences exist over the appropriate way to address this specific situation.

What Makes The Cavendish Bananas Globally Popular?

According to Business Insider, there are more than a thousand varieties of bananas, but the Cavendish banana (Musa acuminata) is consumed by 47% of people worldwide. The Cavendish dominates the banana market for three key reasons. First, the Cavendish has a very long shelf life compared to many other types of bananas; second, it resists most diseases that destroy bananas; and third, unlike other banana varieties, farmers can cultivate the Cavendish on a variety of land types.

What’s The Threat To The Cavendish Banana?

The Tropical Race 4, also referred to as the Panama Disease, is the potential threat to the Cavendish.The likelihood that bananas may go extinct is increasing due to TR4. It’s a fungal infection that starts in the roots of banana trees and spreads throughout the tree to prevent it from absorbing water and to impede the process of photosynthesis. A tree perishes if it is incapable of undergoing photosynthesis.

As per the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the TR4 disease has the ability to infect the soils where trees are found and endure for several decades in the absence of a host. It could travel great distances through contaminated plant equipment, other sick plants, and polluted soil grounds.

This is not the first time that the fruit has faced extinction. In the first part of the 20th century, the Gros Michel banana variety was also rather popular. Around 1876, the TR1, an ancestor of the TR4, started infecting bananas. In the end, it destroyed a great deal of Gros Michel farms in the 1950s. Not long afterward, the Cavendish banans gained increasing popularity because to their immunity to the TR1 disease.

Taiwan is where the TR4 version was found in 1989. It reached China and India, the two nations that produce the most bananas, by 2015. Luckily, the illness progresses slowly, giving researchers around ten years to develop a remedy for the TR4.

What Are Famers and Scientists Are Doing About This?

It is not believed by many plant pathologists that the Cavendish banana variety will suffer the same fate as the Gros Michel variety. Scientists may be able to tackle the TR4 pathogen by offering genetically modified bananas that are resistant to the pathogen. How could one accomplish that? Grafting fruit. Fruit grafting is the technique of transferring tissues across various plant species to confer unique traits, in this case disease immunity.

In order to give the Cavendish banana seeds some immunity against the TR4 disease, Taiwanese scientists intend to perform a natural selection experiment involving the seeds. The most successful seedling groups that make it through continue to experiment in an effort to assist the Cavendish develop into a banana species that is extremely resistant to TR4.

Author of “Banana: The Fate of The Fruit That Changed The World,” Dan Koeppel, contends that the alternatives put out are merely band-aid fixes. Koeppel sees two issues with this: producing the remedy in large quantities and cultivating a wide variety of banana varieties to create genetic diversity and potential disease resistance.

Selling additional varieties of bananas, according to Koeppel, would be the answer since their genetic diversity will increase their susceptibility to illness. Koeppel stated, “Apples are a huge example of this,” to Business Insider. In any American grocery nowadays, I can find anywhere from five to thirty different kinds of apples. Apple cultivators are going crazy attempting to introduce new types through genetic engineering, hybridization, and natural selection. Because of the decreased risk of illness and increased variety it provides to consumers, apple growers continue to reap significant financial benefits.