Published: Sun, July 08, 2018
Medical | By Johnnie Horton

Bananas are under threat of extinction - here's why

Bananas are under threat of extinction - here's why

They believe a wild species of banana found in Madagascar, an island off Africa's south-eastern coast, could hold the key to keeping them alive.

Now, biologists are trying to create a hybrid made out of the two banana species. But if disease spreads before researchers successfully cross-breed the fruit, then the popular Cavendish banana may be hard to find - and eventually, the fruit could disappear altogether. The Madagascar banana has a bad taste, and it grows seeds.

However, this is where the problem lies - there are only five mature banana trees in Madagascar.

According to Richard Allen, who is the senior conservation assessor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, the species is rare and has some characteristics that make the tree more durable than the plantable bananas.

Because bananas are clones, the disease is able to spread very quickly from one to another, and the bananas are all in close proximity.

However, Cavendish bananas are under threat from Panama disease, a disease of the roots of banana plants, which is affecting plants across Asia.

Bananas are facing potential extinction, researchers have cautioned, as a deadly tropical disease sweeps across crops worldwide.

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The Madagascan banana has evolved in isolation on an island cut off from the mainland, and may have special properties.

The banana grows on the edge of forests, where it is vulnerable to damage from severe weather events as well as from logging, fires and the clearing of forests for farming.

As a result, it has now been listed on the official Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The vast majority of bananas sold in supermarkets are known as Cavendish bananas, named after William Cavendish, the sixth Duke of Devonshire, whose gardens are where the first plant originated before being cloned.

Banana crisis as tropical disease threatens to wipe out crops.

Steve Porter, Head Gardener at Chatsworth, told MailOnline: 'We are hopeful that the work being done by scientists around the world to find a cure for the disease threatening the Cavendish banana will be successful. However, these wild bananas are inedible so they are working to create a palatable hybrid that would be resistant to the fungal infection. In the 1950s, the disease wiped out a type of banana known as the Gros Michel.

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