A new study conducted by researchers in the Netherlands finds that our favorite bananas might be in trouble. According to the study, Cavendish bananas—the world’s most popular eating bananas—are at risk for Panama Disease, a fungus that targets the root of the plants and infects the fruit. 


PanamaDisease.org notes that back in the 1950s, the disease almost annihilated the banana population in both Central and South America. Now, researchers believe that Panama Disease will return to South America where 82 percent of the world’s Cavendish bananas reside. The disease has returned in a form called VCG01213, or Tropical Race 4 (TR4). According to plant researcher Nadia Ordonez, TR4 is a clone of Panama Disease and it’s moving the banana population to extinction.


It’s important to note that commercial bananas are monocultures or clones of one another. For this reason, the fruit cannot reproduce, making it even more susceptible to the disease.

According to Quartz, the extinction of bananas will not happen overnight. Quartz explains, “It takes time for Tropical Race 4 to spread. But once it takes root, the decline is inevitable. Taiwan, for instance, now exports around 2 percent of what it did in the late 1960s, when Tropical Race 4 was first discovered there.”


The current methods used to contain Panama disease aren’t working. Science Alert explains that in order to save the Cavendish banana population, a new system for detecting the disease is necessary.

For more information on the disease and what you can do to help, visit PanamaDisease.org.

[via Science Alert]