Bye, bye, banana? Scientists trying to save fruit from tropical disease

Madagascan bananas are endangered as the plant that produces them is highly vulnerable to disease

Madagascan bananas are endangered as the plant that produces them is highly vulnerable to disease

Because they are genetically identical, it is unlikely edible bananas will develop natural resistance to defeat it.

Around five billion Cavendish bananas are eaten every year in the UK.

But hope lies deep in the jungles of Madagascar, where lives a wild banana that may be able to save the species.

However, Cavendish bananas are under threat from Panama disease, a disease of the roots of banana plants, which is affecting plants across Asia.

A type of Madagascan banana named Ensete Perrieri could be the key to saving bananas.

Senior conservation assessor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Richard Allen, stated that the disease-resistant species that is rare has certain characteristics that make it more durable than the Cavendish bananas.

'It doesn't have Panama disease in it, so perhaps it has genetic traits against the disease, ' Allen said.

"We don't know until we actually do research on the banana itself, but we can't do the research until it's saved".

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This is not good news considering scientists believe the Madagascan bananas may hold the key to saving the edible and widely consumed Cavendish banana, which is susceptible to Panama disease.

Cavendish bananas are very similar to each other which makes it easier for the Panama disease to spread among entire harvest fields.

It's an endangered plant in its own right though, having fallen victim to severe weather and deforestation.

As a result, it has now been listed on the official Red List of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).

Cavendish bananas are named for the family of the house they were first grown in - Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. But if the disease spreads before researchers successfully cross-breed the fruit, then the popular Cavendish banana may be hard to find - and eventually, the fruit could disappear altogether.

Experts warn that a tropical disease could wipe out bananas.

Panama disease is a fungus (yep, that'll put you off your lunch) that affects the root of the Cavendish banana - the most common type in the world, with about five billion eaten every year in the United Kingdom alone.

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