Bananas we buy across the world could be threatened with extinction in the future. This claim is due to the decline of wild banana species which could be the last resort for saving the world’s most popular banana, the Cavendish.
According to a BBC article, a wild banana (Ensete perrieri) has been classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. These are only found in Madagascar, where there are just five mature trees left in the wild.
In light of this, scientists are advocating its conservation as it may hold the secret to saving the Cavendish banana. This cultivar could go into extinction in years to come due to its vulnerability to Fusarium (a disease also known as Panama disease that attacks the root of banana trees).
It is thought that the Madagascan banana, E. perrieri, could have certain properties making it resilient to attack from certain pests and diseases, and from drought. The species grows large seeds, making it difficult for humans to eat, but it could be crossbred with another more edible variety or cultivar (such as Cavendish) to create a more resilient cultivated banana.
To find out whether this could be done, Richard Allen, senior conservation assessor at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, stated in the BBC article that more research had to be carried out on the species, but first of all it has to be saved.
Therefore, the race is on to develop new banana varieties that are both tasty and resilient enough to survive attack from pests and diseases such as Panama disease.
Sunmbo Olorunfemi is a graduate of Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security and currently working as an intern with the Plantwise Knowledge Bank.
Coming soon from CABI Books: Handbook of Diseases of Banana, Abacá and Enset