Bananas as you know them may be slipping toward extinction

Bananas as we know them could become extinct due to numerous factors like climate change, insect infestations, poor soil quality and plant pathogens.

The most popular banana subgroup, the Cavendish banana, is in danger and its demise could change our diets forever.

Nicolas Roux, a scientist at Bioversity International in France and leader of the organization’s banana-genetics resources, told Live Science: “For Western countries, the vast majority of the bananas we eat are from the same Cavendish subgroup.”

There are actually thousands of different types of banana in the world, but they can be dramatically different from the popular Cavendish variety, including bananas with red skins or crunchy seeds.

Cavendish bananas are one of the few groups of the fruit that has been bred for commercialization.

Before this, Gros Michel bananas, which were large, creamy and sweet, reigned supreme as the world’s favorite but were ravaged by a fungus in the 1950s, so breeders were forced to create the more robust Cavendish banana.

Around 17 million tons of bananas are exported globally each year; almost all of these are Cavendish. This equates to around 144 billion bananas a year.

In the 1990s, a new strain of the soil-borne fungus, fusarium wilt, started to attack Cavendish bananas, causing scientists to worry about their future.

This fungus, which can’t be killed by fungicides, gets into the banana stem, cuts off the plant’s water supply and eventually kills it.

Other problems with the Cavendish group include that they are bred asexually, so all of them are essentially just clones of one another, meaning if a disease can kill one Cavendish banana, it can kill all of them.

To make matters worse, a new fungus has appeared, called black sigatoka, which is spread through the air and aided by climate change, as warmer conditions mean that the fungus can thrive.

This fungus can be treated by fungicides, but it means farmers had to spray their crops with this around 60 times a year.

Fusarium wilt has taken over some banana plantations in India, China, Taiwan and parts of Australia and East Africa.

Many scientists are fearful that it could spread to some of the major banana exporting plantations in South America, like Ecuador.

If bananas as we know them are going to be saved, the way they are farmed might have to be changed forever.

This could mean switching to smaller farms and growing a diversity of crops, meaning the price of bananas could go up and they may begin to taste slightly different.

This Sun report previously appeared at NYPost.com.

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