Scientists, including Bioversity International banana specialists, are scrambling to find a cure for a devastating fungus that threatens to wipe out the global banana trade and plunge millions of farmers into poverty, reports a recent SciDevNet blog post.
"Around the world, banana farmers are fighting a losing battle against Tropical Race 4, a soil fungus that kills Cavendish bananas, the only type grown for the international market. The disease can be devastating for small banana farmers, who provide much of the 17 million tonnes of Cavendish bananas traded every year — mostly to rich countries where the fruit is popular as a healthy snack. [...] Bananas are also a staple food in many tropical countries, and the main source of protein for more than half a billion people around the world."
Interviewed by SciDevNet, Agustin Molina, Bioversity International pointed out that "in 1992/93, the fungus wiped out more than 5,000 hectares of Cavendish bananas in Indonesia and Malaysia".
"Molina and his team try to work with local farmers to raise awareness of the threat and contain the spread of the fungus. He advocates footbaths, regulating the movement of workers and tough quarantines for seedlings and other imported plant matter. But despite such efforts, Tropical Race 4 has crossed the Pacific Ocean. With the fungus now in Mozambique, other East African countries largely dependent on Cavendish exports — such as Uganda — fear for their crop."
“If nothing is done in the next ten years, billions of dollars worth of crop will be lost,” added Enoch Kikulwe, an associate scientist at Bioversity International’s Uganda office.
Read the full article: Scientists race to halt banana catastrophe
Photo: Transporting bananas, Uganda. Credit: Bioversity International/N.Capozio