Bananas will cease to exist, according to a new study published in PLOS Pathogen. Scientists predict that the fungus that causes Panama disease will drive the fruit to extinction.

Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, the fungus that causes Panama disease or fusarium wilt of banana, has already drove one species of bananas to extinction before. Considered as one of the most destructive plants diseases, Panama disease originated in Taiwan, it soon reached China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and even northern Australia. The researchers fear that it will reach South America, where 82 percent of the world’s Cavendish bananas, the most popular species of bananas, are cultivated.

In 2013, the volume of global gross banana exports reached a record high of 17 million tonnes, six percent more than what was recorded in 2012, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Ecuador remains to be the largest exporter of bananas in the world, supplying 5.3 million tonnes of bananas, despite experiencing a slump back in 2012. Shipments from Latin America and the Caribbean have also expanded their export volumes by 829,000 tonnes.

In the 1990s, scientists confirmed a new strain of the fungus called Tropical Race 4 (TR4). The disease can be transmitted through land and water. Farmers cannot identify the disease immediately without rigorous testing that would take much time.

"We know that the origin of Tropical Race 4 is in Indonesia," Gert Kema, who was part of the research team, told Quartz. “And that it spread from there, most likely first into Taiwan and then into China and the rest of Southeast Asia.”

“Developing new banana cultivars, however, requires major investments in research and development and the recognition of the banana as a global staple and cash crop (rather than an orphan crop) that supports the livelihoods of millions of small-holder farmers,” the study concluded. “The current TR4 epidemic and inherent global attention should be the wake-up call for these much needed strategy changes.”

Quartz states that it would take time for Tropical Race 4 to spread. When TR4 ravaged Taiwan, it took the disease nearly 55 years to drastically affect the country’s production of bananas. Nevertheless, the decline is still unavoidable.

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