Bananas Could Go Extinct Within a Decade

Scientists identify rapidly evolving fungal diseases that threaten to wipe out the global banana industry.

Research recently published in the online journal PLOS Genetics warns that bananas could be exterminated by fungi within five to 10 years. Scientists based at the University of California, Davis used genetic sequencing to reveal the process by which Sigatoka, a three-fungus disease complex, attacks its plant hosts. Sigatoka is already responsible for ruining 40 percent of global banana crops, but plant pathologist Ioannis Stergiopoulos cautions that his team’s findings have “demonstrated that two of the three most serious banana fungal diseases have become more virulent by increasing their ability to manipulate the banana’s metabolic pathways and make use of its nutrients.” The most popular banana variety is in particular danger, Stergiopoulos said, because “the Cavendish banana plants all originated from one plant and so as clones, they all have the same genotype,” which means a disease that kills a single plant could also eradicate every last one. However, researchers hope their discovery will help botanists develop better prevention and treatment methods, as well as hardier banana strains.

Illustration courtesy of Ömer Çetin

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