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We must save the edible banana.  Belgian researchers in Australia are looking for solutions

We must save the edible banana. Belgian researchers in Australia are looking for solutions

Very yellow, preferably unripe, and slightly sweet, the banana we eat today is threatening to disappear. It is attacked by, among other things, a stubborn fungus. Two Belgian scientists embarked on an expedition to the Australian rainforest in search of solutions.

They are actually looking for wild bananas. More precisely, the ancestor of our edible banana, the Cavendish found in our supermarkets. “ In Australia, there are only two types of true wild bananas.Steven Janssens explains, Scientist Mies Botanical Gardens. In Papua New Guinea, there are about ten, so the area is rich, but the one of particular interest to us is the Banksy banana, the ancestor of the edible banana. And this, we see it here in the north of Australia.”

From this Banksii banana, which is so inedible (it is very small and has many seeds), one day, a new type of edible banana can be developed, more resistant.

Cavendish is experiencing not only the effects of global warming (it suffers from drought), but also attacks by the fungus Fusarium DR4. It spreads to the ground, where it remains for decades, unable to be removed.

The first version of this fungus (which caused the so-called “disease”).From Panama“) already in the 1950s and 1960s, banana plants were extinct around the world. The most cultivated variety at the time was “”Groce Michael“, thus giving rise to the Cavendish banana, which was later highly resistant.

So it looks like history will repeat itself even though we are armed now. We now need to find another species that is resistant to both fungi, viruses and the effects of climate change.

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For other crops, it is easy to create a new species, Bart Panis, a scientist at the International Biodiversity Consortium and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture. Since most other plants are fertile, they have seeds that can be crossed. Edible banana is sterile. Therefore, to create a new species one must start from the original wild bananas (with seeds). It is very difficult.”

While other crops are the result of repeated hybridization by humans in recent decades, the banana is the result of natural hybridization that produced a sterile banana thousands and thousands of years ago.