The humble banana is the world’s fourth largest crop after wheat, rice and corn. Although 85% of production is consumed in the producing countries and just 15% exported to Europe and North America, the menace of the latest disease has already ravaged 10,000 hectares starting in the Far East and spreading through Central America. The Cavendish banana developed by Joseph Paxton in 1830 was thought to be proof against the disease which destroyed the previous most used banana cultivar, Le Gros Michel. Not so, time has caught up on the Cavendish and sadly there is little that can stop the disease from spreading from tree to tree, from plantation to plantation.
Help is at hand through work being done by a team at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. The full story can be seen on the Panamadisease.org website. Shall we run out of bananas, probably not, can we develop a GM banana cultivar which will endure, the answer is yes.
Adrian Binsted, Editor