Bananas may become extinct in just 5 to 10 years due to fast-advancing fungal diseases, scientists have warned.
The banana is one of the world’s top five staple foods. About 100 million tonnes of bananas are produced annually in nearly 120 countries.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis discovered how three fungal diseases have evolved into a lethal threat to the world’s bananas.
However, the global banana industry could be wiped out in just five to 10 years by fast-advancing fungal diseases. That would prove devastating to millions of small-scale farmers who depend on the fruit for food, fibre and income.
Already, Sigatoka – a three-fungus disease complex – reduces banana yields by 40 per cent.
They discovered that this complex of diseases has become lethal to banana plants not just by shutting down the plant’s immune system but also by adapting the metabolism of the fungi to match that of the host plants.
As a result, the attacking fungi can produce enzymes that break down the plant’s cell walls. This allows the fungi to feed on the plant’s sugars and other carbohydrates. The research was published in the journal PLOS Genetics.