A new study found that the popular variety of Cavendish banana grown in Mozambique and Jordan is under attack by a strain of soil fungus.
Gert Kema, lead author of the study from the Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, and his colleagues identified that the Fusarium oxysporum f.sp.cubense, commonly known as Foc, has been affecting several banana plantations in the said areas.
The fungus is known to cause the incurable Panama disease or Fusarium wilt, which will rot the bananas. In the 1950s, it has been documented that a strain of fungus caused the demise of another Cavendish variety, the Gros Michel cultivar. After this variety perished, producers of banana in South and Central America switched to the modern Cavendish variety, the one that we have today, because it was resistant to fungus at that time.
The rare fungus, previously confined in areas in Asia and Australia made its way to Cavendish-growing area and is now threatening its global supply. The researchers are still uncertain how the fungus reached Mozambique and Jordan though they hypothesized those migrant workers might have brought the contaminated soil.
“I’m incredibly concerned,” Gert wrote. “I will not be surprised if it pops up in Latin America in the near future.”
The study was published in the online journal Nature.
However, the fungus is not the only thing threatening the world’s supply of this fruit. Early last week, major banana producer Costa Rica declared a “banana emergency” caused by an outbreak of insects that feed on the leaves and fruits. After eating, these insects will leave blemishes on the fruit, making it almost impossible for the farmers to sell them.
The director of Agriculture and Livestock Ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services, Magda Gonzales says that climate change is the one to blame for Costa Rica’s pest problem.
She told Tico Times that, “Climate change, by affecting temperature, favors the condition under which [insects] reproduce.”
To fight off the bugs and the insects eating away the country’s main export product, Costa Rica was allowed to use biological control agents and pesticides on their crops. However, experts agree that to put the banana problem to rest once and for all, they need to find a fungus-resistant banana to take the place of the vulnerable varieties.