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article imageBanana fungus poses global risk

By Tim Sandle     Dec 22, 2013 in Food
A devastating fungal disease has hit a leading variety of banana in Africa and Middle East. There are now fears that the world's major banana production in Latin America will be affected.
A fungus that rots and kills the main variety of export banana has been found in plantations in Mozambique and Jordan, according to Nature. The fungus had previously been limited to parts of Asia and a region of Australia. This spread has raised concerns that the fungus could spread to major producers and hit supplies.
The disease is caused by strains of a soil fungus called Fusarium oxysporum. Although the fungus spreads slowly, once it is present in the soil it can be very difficult to eliminate.
The fungus was first detected in Asia in the 1990s, and is now found in Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, China and northern Australia. The outbreak in Jordan was first reported in October this year in the journal Plant Disease. It is unclear how exactly the fungus as spread to the Middle East.
Progress in creating bananas fully resistant to the fungus, either by classical breeding or genetic engineering, has so far been limited, according to Lab Roots. In the meantime, major producers of bananas remain fearful but vigilant.
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