A Tropical Fungus Could Make Bananas Go Extinct

Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) has been detected in Latin America

A Tropical Fungus Could Make Bananas Go Extinct
Organic bananas offered in a Berlin supermarket. (Wolfgang Kumm/picture alliance via Getty)
By Evan Bleier / August 21, 2019 12:53 pm

A tropical fungus could put the banana in danger of splitting from the face of the planet.

A deadly fungus called Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) which has long plagued banana growers in Asia, Australia and Africa has been detected in Latin America and is poised to do major damage, according to Wired

TR4, which infects banana plants through their roots, was found in plantations in northern Colombia earlier this month and the country has declared a national state of emergency.

To help prevent the disease from spreading, officials from the Colombian Agricultural Institute have been destroying crops and quarantining plantations. Stopping the spread of the fungus is massively important for Colombia as bananas are the country’s third-most valuable agricultural export, behind coffee and flowers, according to VICE.

The fungus primarily affects a variety of banana called the Cavendish. Unfortunately, 99 percent of all exported bananas are Cavendish.

“While things in Latin America look dire, there is a little hope on the horizon. Work is already underway to use Crispr gene-editing to create Cavendish bananas that are resistant to TR4,” Wired writes. “It also might be possible to cross-breed other banana varieties in the hope of creating offspring that are TR4-resistant and tasty enough to sell to consumers.” 

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