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Bananas under threat from bugs and disease

Posted on Tuesday, 17 December, 2013 | Comment icon 10 comments

Bananas could soon be in short supply. Image Credit:
Costa Rica is among several countries to have been affected as banana supplies continue to dwindle.
The popular and seemingly plentiful fruit may soon be in short supply as vast crops of bananas are being lost due to a rise in insect plagues and fungal infections. The problem has become so bad in Costa Rica, one of the world's biggest banana suppliers, that authorities have declared the problem to be a national emergency.

"I can tell you with near certainty that climate change is behind these pests," said Magda Gonzalez, director of the agriculture ministry’s State Phytosanitary Services. Up to 20% of recent banana crops have been lost thanks to two separate plagues of mealybugs and scale insects.

Meanwhile, a banana-eating fungus is beginning to spread across the globe with the potential to affect up to 80% of the world's supply. "It's a gigantic problem," said Rony Swennen of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Tanzania. "I'm incredibly concerned. I will not be surprised if it pops up in Latin America in the near future."

Source: Independent | Comments (10)

Tags: Banana, Costa Rica

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by margiel on 17 December, 2013, 14:48
I know that if I use only azaleas to plant any infested bush will infect the others. Similarly I'd guess if a majority of your fields are planted with bananas year after year, decade after decade, you have created an environment for banana pests.
Comment icon #2 Posted by bulveye on 17 December, 2013, 15:11
This is gradually happen world wide to various fruit and veg. You see we keep narrowing down the variety of, for example, apples. Super markets now only sell about 5 types of apple so the farmers only grow those types. In the last 30 years we have lost about 90 varieties of apple, probably for ever. All it takes is one slightly new strain of mold or pest to come along and we could find ourselves in a food crisis. This almost 'autistic' urge the supermarkets have to make every product a clone of itself is the root of the problem. When we used to have many small markets, farmers were fre... [More]
Comment icon #3 Posted by toast on 17 December, 2013, 15:19
That´s one of the negative effects of chemical boosted mono cultural farming over decades, because the consumer is not willing to pay more for a banana than for an apple produced by the local area farmer.
Comment icon #4 Posted by FLOMBIE on 17 December, 2013, 15:23
But more often than not, organic and regular bananas share the same price. I'd also like to raise the awareness that the pesticides used to control banana plantations, are the reason for most of the people living around the plantations being sterile. That is reason enough for me to only buy organic bananas.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Sundew on 17 December, 2013, 15:39
Yes, people underestimate the dangers of mono culture of crops (think Irish Potato Famine). A very real danger is mono culture of a particular grain crop, say a corn or a wheat, could do so well that it supplies say 60-80% (or more) of a countries food supply of that particular grain. Then you have some organism that destroys the crop come along and you set the stage for famine. Heirloom seeds and plants should not be totally abandoned for GMO or hybrid crops, they should always be available as many have resistance to disease and are very hardy. Bananas have suffered from fungal problems,... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by bulveye on 17 December, 2013, 15:57
Yep, with the increased use of chemicals farmers don't bother with crop rotation any more and forbidding the transportation of plants won't really help as birds and insects will carry ample spores.
Comment icon #7 Posted by Rafterman on 17 December, 2013, 16:15
Sounds like a perfect argument for the development of a GMO banana that is resistant to such problems. Science based agriculture for the win.
Comment icon #8 Posted by Xynoplas on 17 December, 2013, 18:11
They are trying to create a new hybrid that will be resistant to this pest, but to no avail. The one you see most on the shelves is Cavendish variety, which replaced the Gros Michel which was wiped out in the 1950s.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Chooky88 on 17 December, 2013, 23:55
Xynoplas is right. It happened before. If you wonder what an extinct Gros Michel tastes like, eat a lolly banana. They were invented before we list them all. Since the Cavendish is seedless I believe without a GM version we may lose them all. For the record I'm pro GM.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Duchess Gummybuns on 18 December, 2013, 0:54
Years from now, there's gonna be a war. Scientist will make super bananas that evolved immunity to almost anything. After the Great Banana Uprising of 2112, we'll start asking the now further-evolved Insectoids of the underground to team up with us to fight the potassium menace. Thus, the Bug/Nana Wars.

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