Going Bananas over Bananas

By John Zagar, Sustainable Plant Systems Major, Turfgrass Specialization

Every day that I wake with some sort of productivity in mind, my go-to brain food is the banana. It’s delicious, nutritious, and no cooking is required. A huge plus. Being rich in potassium that aids in preventing cramping, bananas are also a great post-workout snack for me because I’m lazy and don’t stretch too well. Also, Hollaback Girl is a great song.

But I digress from my affection with the banana to bring forth this news: the banana is in trouble, people.

An article published in October, 2016 from the website, The Conversation, brought to my attention that the renowned Cavendish banana, the one that everyone eats, is under attack from a new disease called Black Sigatoka, caused by the fungus Pseudocercospora fijiensis.

Black Sigatoka has swept through Central and South America, causing a drop in yield by upwards of 50% for some growers. This is obviously terrible news for the producers and it’s going to hurt consumers too.

Drawing back to my learnings from remedial economics, I postulate that as supply goes down, prices rise. I love bananas, but I’m also a poor college student. If the banana shelves at the store are low, so are the funds in my wallet.

Fun fact: the Cavendish banana is grown in monoculture, which means that banana farms pretty much grow just this one type of banana.  The farms will be much more susceptible to disease and suspect to greater loss than polyculture farms.

The good news is that this isn’t the first major epidemic for the banana. In the 60’s, before the Cavendish, we imported Big Mike bananas, but then the Big Mike’s were struck by a disease called Fusarium Wilt.

We don’t eat Big Mike bananas anymore.

Steps are being taken to prevent a collapse including new breeding techniques and polyculture farms. Let’s just hope it isn’t too late.

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About the Author:

John Zagar is a student at The Ohio State University studying to earn a Sustainable Plant Systems Major with a specialization in Turfgrasses. Besides his love for bananas, John is also loves anything basketball, but none of that college stuff, it’s weak. March Madness is cool though. Go Cavs!

This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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