Banana is a very optimally priced fruit. It happens to be world’s most popular fruit. It can be eaten hassle free, has an amazing sweet taste, can be made tangy and spicy by adding lime, salt, pepper, chaat masala etc. Don’t miss on the yummy banana shake made in milk!
The tragedy is that Fusarium wilt or the ‘Panama’ Banana disease has struck the succulent fruit. It is first disease caused by the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum.
Nutrition facts of Banana
The smile shaped curvy fruit is power-packed with nutrients. The richness of Potassium and Magnesium gives it tree power to lower blood pressure. This in turn reduces the risk of heart diseases. Potassium also helps in protecting bones against osteoporosis. Banana contains 3 grams of fiber which is 12% of your daily need. This fiber helps in digestion. Vitamin B6 sharpens the brain to keep mood related symptoms of PMS at bay. It also contains Vitamin C, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Varieties of Banana
This tropical tree-fruit is cultivated in more than 150 countries. There are around thousand varieties of bananas in the world, which can broadly be subdivided into 50 groups. Cavendish is the most common variety and most frequently exported too.
The threat of extinction
It was unbelievable to even think of bananas going extinct. International Association for the Plant Protection Sciences (IAPPS) is concerned with the alarming ‘Triple attack’ on world’s banana production.
This ‘Triple attack’ banana disease involves effects of fungus Panama disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4), the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV) and the Banana Skipper butterfly (Erionota spp).
The threat is way bigger than what was initially feared. Three pests together can exploit the entire banana production worth $35 billion approximately.
This epidemic can contaminate the entire banana plantations across Asia, Africa and Latin America. There are no cultivars available as of now which are resistant to these three threats. Not only the impact will be on export and economy, it will also impact the health conditions and nutrition available to the common man.
What can be done to safeguard this extremely nutritious fruit or berry?
One of the strategies to safeguard bananas from the Fusarium wilt is to implement genetic engineering strategy. This involves introduction of a resistance gene isolated from a wild relative of banana. Another strategy involves deriving an anti-apoptosis gene from a nematode to create resistant crop.
Robert H. Stover and Gros Michel are independently working to find a solution to keep the threat and banana disease away from the curvy fruit. Yet it requires acceptance for the GM (Genetic modification) in food products. The research triggered by the spread of TR4 continues till the disease war comes to a halt.
As a child, we never were concerned about banana disease striking this wonderful fruit to the extent that the threat may make it extinct for the generations to come. Will the genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) get approval by authorities to continue with the fruit? Or in the remaining short time, our research scientists will invent ways which free the fruit from the fungal Fusarium wilt? The future is dark and uncertain. It’s time for miracle to disappear the Panama disease.