Write to Anna Purna Kambhampaty at [email protected] PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP/Getty Images. Bebber says the banana may change, but hopes are high that it won’t completely vanish. Tropical Race 4 infects Cavendish bananas—Australia’s most grown variety of banana—as well as most other varieties. The Cavendish hasn’t always been popular. The situation led Colombia—where the economy relies heavily on the crop, as it does in several other countries including Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala—to declare a national state of emergency in August. Plus, multinational fruit companies had no other disease-resistant variety available that could be ready quickly for mass exportation. But the bigger problem is how hard it is to stop. Before the 1950s, Europe and America’s banana of choice was the Gros Michel – a creamier, sweeter banana that dominated the export market. There’s a name for this situation: monoculture, the practice of fostering just one variety of something. So, what’s next for the banana? 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. Plants of one variety are genetic clones of the parent plant. But the banana as we know it may also be on the verge of extinction. He believes that consumers’ fears might ease if it becomes one of the only viable answers to the issues created by monoculture production. 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. However, according to Gert, TR4 is extremely contagious among commercially-raised Cavendish bananas because they're all clones, so once a crop is infected, there's no way to save it and the disease will spread rapidly. Since Central and South America are home to the world's biggest markets for growing and exporting bananas, the impact of a widespread infection would be detrimental to the fruit's global supply. The switched worked. On average, says Chris Barrett, a professor of agriculture at Cornell University, citing that U.N. data, every person on earth chows down on 130 bananas a year, at a rate of nearly three a week. Existing disease-resistant varieties haven’t made inroads on the international market, but The Honduras Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA) has spent more than three years working on developing a disease-resistant variety that is as close as possible to the Cavendish, so that the world’s banana infrastructure doesn’t have to be reshaped from scratch. The Cavendish banana has proved popular among producers and exporters for its high yields and durability over long transportation. “Monocultures are dangerous in almost every facet of life,” echoes Fred B. Schneider, a cybersecurity expert at Cornell University. And with transportation, it’s more effective to have several different options—when a train line is shut down, if you have other choices at your disposal, like a car or another form of transit, you won’t be stuck.”. Monoculture has its benefits. “It’s still not close enough to the Cavendish,” he says, but he thinks the crisis may convince them. Today, however, no type of banana has appeared resistant to the super-deadly TR4 strain. Because banana farmers are overwhelmingly growing the same exact crop—the Cavendish—they were all vulnerable to the same diseases. A deadly plant fungus has begun to infect banana crops in a region experts have long feared would be especially susceptible to disease. Over several decades, the fungus spread from Panama to neighboring countries, moving north through Costa Rica to Guatemala and south into Colombia and Ecuador. It's a sweet, somewhat bland banana closely associated with large-scale operations like Dole and Chiquita. “With people, of course, populations are stronger and more disease-resistant if there’s more genetic diversity. Here are the best early deals to shop now. Cavendish banana varieties are reproduced asexually. 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. Schneider points out that software monocultures are common because, without them, using your computer would be a lot harder. When it comes to bananas, everything from truck tires to workers’ boots can be disease carriers. It begins in the soil and travels to the root system, then enters the corm and passes into the pseudostem. Fernando García-Bastidas, a Colombian phytopathologist, told National Geographic that for now, both the ICA and local Colombian farms are doing a good job at containing the infected crops. However, it too is now under threat from both Black Sigatoka and a new strain of Panama disease. And as the banana industry has begun to battle the effects of monoculture, someone else has taken notice: the tech world. It’s a very good lesson for us.”. There are many varieties of banana in the world, and until the later half of the 19th century, the dominant one was called the Gros Michel. To the people who pay attention to such things, it wasn’t long before a case of banana déjà vu set in: the Cavendish had supplanted the Gros Michel, but—even though it had initially been selected for being disease-resistant—it was still at risk. Colombian agriculture and livestock authority (ICA), 6 easy hacks to keep bananas from ripening too fast, would be to create a different type of banana, Climate change threatens world's food supply, alarming UN report says. Banana experts around the world have raised concerns that it may be too late to reverse the damage. Cavendish banana varieties are reproduced asexually. The Cavendish banana may have had a remarkable journey from colonial curiosity to … But no, they’re not about to go extinct. As the Gros Michel was ravaged by disease, the Cavendish banana took over the world’s markets and kitchens. 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 popular banana is very susceptible to a disease that could kill them all off. 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. The Cavendish banana has proved popular among producers and exporters for its high yields and durability over long transportation. (Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images), Who Should Be TIME’s Person of the Year for 2020? By signing up you are agreeing to our, Trump Administration Authorizes 'Cyanide Bombs' Again, Why Joe Biden Needs Mitch McConnell to Govern. Cavendish growers currently manage Black Sigatoka through a combination of pruning infected leaves and … The Cavendish banana is grown by big companies like Dole and Chiquita. The disease was serious and diagnosed in Panama banana plantations of Central America. According to National Geographic, "A banana with those characteristics, a taste and appearance similar to the beloved Cavendish, and resistance to TR4 does not exist.". Much of the world's bananas are of the Cavendish variety, which is endangered by a strain of Panama disease. The reason for the problem comes down to a single disease, but it also has far-reaching implications—and the world is watching. Sure enough, the confirmation of the presence of Tropical Race 4 (TR4), another strain of Panama disease, on banana farms in Colombia, prompted this summer’s declaration of emergency there. The switched worked. “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. Follow her work on Contently. “The story of the banana is really the story of modern agriculture exemplified in a single fruit,” says Daniel Bebber, who leads the BananEx research group at the University of Exeter. And even then, it might not taste exactly like fruit we know today. Desperate for a solution, the world’s banana farmers turned to the Cavendish. 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