Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Banana Fungus, Go Away

I've known for some time now that there's a potential threat to my favorite food: the bannana. Boing Boing gives us a quick run-down of why this is:
Bananas, as we know them, cannot reproduce. The ones we eat are sterile hybrids. Like mules. The only way that there are more bananas is that humans take offshoots from the stems of existing banana trees, transplant them, and allow them to grow into a tree of their own. It's basically a cheap, low-tech version of cloning, and it has a long history in agriculture. ...

The downside to this is that clones are, shall we say, not terribly genetically diverse. Turns out, a lack of genetic diversity is a great way to make yourself vulnerable to disease. Back in the 1950s, a fungus all but wiped out a variety of banana called the Gros Michael. Up until then, the Gros Michel had been the top-selling banana in the world. It was the banana your grandparents ate. You eat the Cavendish, a different variety that replaced Gros Michael largely on the strength of its resistance to the killer fungus.
According to the article, a fungus called Black Sigatoka can kill banana trees and reduce yields in the survivors, and so efforts are underway to develop a replacement strain of banana just in case the Black Sigatoka is successful: the Goldfinger. Click through to see a picture.

Here's hoping that the Goldfinger tastes as good as the Cavendish!

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