It’s official: Panama Tropical Race 4 fungus threatens world’s banana industry. Scientists and biologists work together to put an end to this disease, which could soon destroy global banana plantations.
There are few global regions where bananas can be cultivated, another reason for scientists to worry now that the threat of the Panama disease has been officially recognized. The virus is spread through the roots of the plant, so kilometers of plantations could go extinct unless measures are immediately adopted.
Biologists have been wrestling with this disease for decades. The first time it has been attested was in 1950, when farmers lost all their crops of Gros Michel banana species. The only solution that scientists found at that period of time was to replace Gros Michel species with more resistant ones, namely the Cavendish plantations.
Cavendish plants have been preferred to other species because they have been labeled as highly resistant compared to other types of bananas. Unfortunately, so was the Panama disease fungus, which cannot be stopped with fungicides.
The only solution that farmers have at present is to destroy the entire plantation as soon as they notice that some plants have been affected. So far, several kilometers of banana plants have been destroyed and yet, results fail to appear.
Biologists pay extra attention to plantations in Costa Rica and Central America because these are the regions that would be most affected by the extinction of bananas. 8 percent of the employment in the region is covered by banana farming and incredibly large amounts of bananas are exported to Northern regions every year.
The Panama disease would therefore affect the worldwide economy and the global population if scientists don’t find solutions. The fungus was identified in China, the Philippines, Taiwan and Australia.
Researchers think fungicides are not the only solutions that can be applied in the future for the preservation of banana plantations. Producers should also diversify banana species, instead of focusing on one single type of plant. This measure will not prevent the Panama disease from spreading, but it will definitely slow down its evolution.
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