Despite the quarantine measure, the fungus is continuing to spread in banana crops worldwide.
One of world’s most popular fruits is at extremely high risk of extinction.
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According to a new study, the spread of a deadly fungus may wipe out bananas crops worldwide within decades.
The fungus, known as Tropical Race 4, was first detected in Asia and is now spreading to the rest of the world with a potential to destroy the $11 billion banana industry across the globe.
The soil-borne fungus enters the banana plant through the roots, makes it dehydrated and eventually kills the entire plant.
“We know that the origin of (Tropical Race 4) is in Indonesia and that it spread from there, most likely first into Taiwan and then into China and the rest of Southeast Asia," said Gert Kema, a banana expert at Wageningen and lead author of the study.
“The deadly fungus has now leapt to Pakistan, Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Mozambique, and Australia’s northeast Queensland.”
Cavendish bananas, which are the most popular variety of bananas, are very vulnerable to this strain and most of these bananas, nearly 82% are grown in South America.
Exporting Cavendish bananas from affected countries and farming the fruit there may infect local banana crops too.
“The Cavendish banana is very susceptible to TR4. Therefore, the fungus can spread easily due to the worldwide monoculture of Cavendish bananas,” explains Kema. “That’s why we have to intensify awareness campaigns to reach small and large scale growers in order to help them with developing and implementing quarantine measures preventing the fungus from continued spreading.”
The study also highlights that the quarantine efforts, which have been made so far, are not proving so effective and the deadly fungus is continued to spread. Since there is no way to eliminate the disease once it enters the fruit, experts suggest that only effective quarantine measures can prevent banana plantations from becoming infested.
“The research demonstrates that the quarantine measures and information provided around the globe apparently have not had the desired effect,” said Kema.
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“We are gaining more and more insight into the scope of the issue. The ability to quickly identify infected banana plants and infested soils is extremely important in this respect. However, eventually we have to come up with long-term solutions, particularly host resistance, which can only be developed in strong multidisciplinary alliances with various partners and industries.”