Food plant under threat from climate change
Bananas and their starchier relatives, plantains, are cultivated in over 100 tropical countries. Most are consumed locally and in some regions, for example East Africa, are vital food crops. The familiar ‘Cavendish’ dessert banana dominates commercial cultivation, and became predominant after the popular ‘Gros Michel’ bananas succumbed to the Panama disease fungus in the 1950s. All Cavendish bananas descend from plants raised at Chatsworth in Derbyshire in the 19th century. Unfortunately, this genetic uniformity renders them highly susceptible to disease epidemics, including novel Panama disease fungus strains. Meanwhile, Black Sigatoka fungus threatens banana and plantain production, especially in East Africa. Remarkably, since the 1960s, climate change has increased banana productivity. But, as we move towards the mid-21st century, temperatures in several major banana
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