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UK research institutes against bananageddon

Staff Writer |
A new project is being launched to protect bananas, which is in danger of disappearing due to the pressures of rising costs and disease, exacerbated by a lack of genetic diversity in the crop.

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Banana production is threatened by Panama disease, the spread of which has been facilitated by increasing trade and transport links.

As only one banana variety - the cavendish - accounts for most of the international export trade, production is extremely vulnerable to shocks.

The cavendish variety became widely cultivated due to its resistance to a strain of Panama disease which all but wiped out the Gros Michel banana cultivar in the 1950s. Now, a new strain of the disease is threatening the Cavendish.

If the disease spreads to more banana-producing nations, there’s a risk of shortages occurring, as any outbreaks in the Caribbean or South America could affect exports to North America, and there are currently no commercial cultivars which could replace the Cavendish.

Now though, biologists and economists are embarking on a new research programme to improve understanding of the situation and develop solutions to save banana crops from disease.

Teams from the Universities of Exeter and Oxford, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the NGO BananaLink are joining to combat what they’re calling ‘bananageddon’.

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