Welcome to the 21st century, where we have melting glaciers, near-extinct animals, crazy people with crazy ideas and soon, probably, a world without bananas.
According to Science, Colombia has announce a national state of emergency on August 8 after confirming that a deadly fungus called Panama Disease Tropical Race 4 (TR4) has appeared in the country’s 445 acres of banana plantation. This fungus’ presence were first spotted in June, northern Columbia which put the nation on high alert.
The TR4 is a notorious villain to the banana fruit, which had destroyed crops in Asia before and now that its deadly presence has been confirmed, this could be very, very bad for us.
The Colombian National Agricultural Institute (ICA) in Bogota announced their plans to expand biosecurity efforts . They’ve already called in the military and police to help quarantine the affected areas and some crops were under 24-hour watch by agricultural officials.
According to National Geographic, TR4 was originally discovered in Taiwan in the early 1990s and experts believed it to have stayed in South East Asia and Australia, not knowing that it had spread worldwide until its presence was detected in Africa and the Middle East in 2013. Experts had fears that it’s not going to take long before it arrives in Latin America, and now the unholy prophecy has come true.
The discovery of TR4 in Latin America is unsettling to scientists since the fungus has the potential to wipe out the Cavendish Banana. Gert Kema, Professor of Tropical Phytopathology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands said, “Once you see it, it is too late, and is has likely already spread outside that zone without recognition.”
Almost all banana strain is of Cavendish, and National Geographic reports that there’s really no back-up banana that could replace the Cavendish (okay, maybe our local pisang berangan could take a shot at it). Agricultural scientists haven’t been able to develop a banana that could replicate the flavour, survivability and immunity to the TR4.
Columbia is the world’s fourth-largest banana exporters and the fruit is their third-most valuable agricultural export other than coffee and flowers. For us, bananas might be just another food source but to those in Latin America, it’s also a primary economic resource and the presence of the TR4 in banana farmlands could cause a widespread economic distress in Latin America.
As of right now, there’s no treatment for the TR4. When infected plants die, the fungus can remain in the soil for decades. So, are we ready to live in a world without pisang goreng?
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