(FOX News) - A virulent strain of a banana-destroying fungus that has threatened banana crops in East and Southeast Asia is making its way around the globe and has scientists warning of the fruit’s extinction.
According to a study appearing in the online science journal PLOS Pathogens by researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, a strain of the soil-borne fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. cubense—also known as the Panama disease--has the potential to wipe out the world’s $11 billion banana industry.
Tracing the genetic makeup of the fungus, researchers found that a single clone of the Panama disease fungus called Tropical Race 4 is killing the Cavendish banana –the world’s most popular variety and one you see at the grocery store.
Gert Kema, banana expert at Wageningen University and Research Center, who co-authored the study, tells Quartz how in the 1960s Tropical Race 4 was found in Indonesia and spread to Taiwan and China and the rest of Southeast Asia. In all the countries it hit, banana exports slowly fell over several decades. While it takes years for the disease to take root, once it does the decline is inevitable.