Bananageddon – global threat to banana crops
Researchers take first step in eradication of world-wide threat of three banana fungal diseases.
Yes, we have no bananas. We have no bananas today. Or maybe ever.
That’s the doomsday scenario facing bananas globally, as new evolving fungal diseases threaten to not only hurt the world-wide banana industry, but could wipe out the fruit within a decade.
According to researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the Netherlands, three fungal diseases could threaten the very existence of the banana fruit.
Science has previously sequenced the genome of the yellow Sigatoka fungal disease, and the current team from the Netherlands and University of California, Davis then did the same for the other two diseases: eumusae leaf spot, and black Sigatoka, comparing the research.
Sigatoka is a three-fungus disease that already reduced banana yields by 40 percent.
UC Davis plant pathologist Ioannis Stergiopoulos says in a document found on the university website that “two of the three most serious banana fungal diseases have become more virulent by increasing their ability to manipulate the banana’s metabolic pathways and make use of its nutrients.”
He continues: “This parallel change in metabolism of the pathogen and the host plant has been overlooked until now and may represent a molecular fingerprint of the adaption process.
“It really is a wake-up call to the research community to look at similar mechanisms between pathogens and their plant hosts.”
Because of the discovery, first reported in the on-line journal PLOS Genetics, the plan now is to try and develop ways to eliminate the fungal diseases or perhaps build a better banana that is more disease resistant by adding more diversity to the banana stock.
The Cavendish variety of banana is currently the most-common one munched on by the planet. It is grown from cuttings of the trees shoots, which are replanted, rather than seeds, which essentially makes all the trees clones – ergo, one disease could wipe out the entire Cavendish crop thanks to a lack of genetic diversity.
Could the annihilation of a banana species happen again?
Sure. Before the Cavendish banana brand came to the forefront in the latter half of the 20th century, the No. 1 banana to nosh on was the Gros Michel variety—which was almost nearly wiped out by a bacterial fungus.
With the full genome of the fungal disease(s) known, and how they evolve, work can begin to try and save the global banana crop.
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