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Say Goodbye to Bananas: Panama Disease is Coming Back

The banana we know and love today actually suck when compared to the one our grandparents ate. That cultivar, called the Gros Michel, was bigger and tastier but alas it was hit by a blight called the Panama disease and went extinct by 1960.

Now, the banana we all eat, a variety called the Cavendish, may face the same fate: Panama disease, caused by the fungus Fusarium, is back and spreading fast!

Panama disease - or Fusarium wilt of banana - is back, and the Cavendish does not appear to be safe from this new strain, which appeared two decades ago in Malaysia, spread slowly at first, but is now moving at a geometrically quicker pace. There is no cure, and nearly every banana scientist says that though Panama disease has yet to hit the
banana crops of Latin America, which feed our hemisphere, the question is not if this will happen, but when. Even worse, the malady has the potential to spread to dozens of other banana varieties, including African bananas, the primary source of nutrition for millions of people.

Panama disease is so virulent that a single clump of dirt tracked in on a tire tread or a shoe can spark a country-wide outbreak.

Link - via Modulator

Previously on Neatorama: We're Bananas About Bananas!


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Gibson8or has good commentary.

As a practical matter, generally diseases like that affect an entire species pretty uniformly. So while relying on a single cultivar like 'Cavendish' doesn't help, in truth, probably the whole species will be affected. What sometimes happens though, is that a rare individual plants *within* a species exhibit some degree of atypical resistance. When that happens, the resistant plant can be cloned (usually through age-old vegetative means such as cuttings) and then crossed with existing cultivars such as 'Cavendish' in the hope that a variety can be produced that has the good features of 'Cavendish' without the disease susceptibility.

This is a great plan, but it can take decades and decades... such has been the case with producing a American Chestnut that is immune to chestnut blight -- that was introduced in 1904 and has completely decimated the U.S. Chestnut forests.

While there have been some individual trees within the native chestnut species that exhibited some resistance, most of the effort on finding a blight-proof solution has been doing crosses with other species that are more resistant (but otherwise lamer trees). So they start off by crossing a blight-sensitive American Chestnust with a blight-resistant Chinese Chestnut ( a different species) and select the most resistant "children" (seedlings) and then backcross these with American chestnuts. The idea is that in the end you have a tree that is almost indistinguishable from an American Chestnut, but is blight-resistant. This can take 8 or more backcrosses & since chestnuts takes years to fruit (and have seeds) it can take a long long time.

It sounds like something must be needed for bananas. They'll need to cross seeded cultivars with other species that are more resistant, come up with something resistant and then get to work at developing a seedless cultivar thereafter. It will be a ot of work, but the banana market is huge, so they'll have the bucks to do it. Time is time, however...
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I think I must clear something up with the anti-creationism crowd here. Creationists/Intelligent Design scientists AGREE that the kind of "evolution" talked about here happens (i.e. variations of bananas).

The difference is whether the fruits we have today merely evolved from other fruits from a long time ago, or whether they evolved from primordial soup or aliens or whatever.

By the way: Intelligent Christians don't get their science from Kirk Cameron or whoever that other guy is in the video. I like Kirk, but he doesn't represent the Christians well is the science department.
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DOJ: Commercialized bananas are sterilized to reproduce asexually, thus they have no seeds. They were all identical copies with hardly any genetic variations, and were multiplied by artificial planting methods.

(Some wild bananas do have seeds, like how watermelons are used to be.)
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