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Bananas to go extinct due to spread of deadly fungus

Bananas are not only delicious, but also high in potassium, pack a lot of protein and can help lower blood pressure. Are we ready to wave goodbye to them?

A deadly fungus has resurfaced and might lead to the extinction of bananas altogether, according to the Independent. For decades, the Gros Michel was the most exported banana in the world, until a fungus known as Panama disease almost completely eradicated this type.

Banana growers replaced the Gros Michel with the Cavendish – a breed immune to the disease, which account for 99% of banana exports. However, the beloved fruit is under threat once again. The fungus has come back under a different name, Tropical Race 4 (TR4). It is believed to be even more deadly than the Panama disease, since it affects numerous local breeds of banana around the world.

“It’s caused by a really common type of fungus called Fusarium, which was probably already in the soil there,” Dan Koeppel, author of the book Banana: The fate of the fruit that changed the world,” told CNN. “A single clamp of contaminated dirt is enough to spread it like wildfire, and it can be transported by wind, cars, water, creating an infection wherever it goes.”

The pathogen works by invading a plant, infecting its roots, moving up through the xylem – the tissue that transports water and nutrients – and causing a blockage, leading to the plant wilting and dying. The TR4 has spread to South-east Asia, Australia and Africa and might pose a threat to bananas worldwide.

Experts explained that the reason the fungus is spreading is that the bad practices from 50 years ago still happen. They advise banana growers to burn the plantation down and start over with a different crop altogether.

In Africa, a 12-month emergency project funded by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) is already trying to tackle the epidemy, in hopes that the disease remains contained in the ares where it has been discovered.

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