Are bananas especially prone to disease?
Bananas are among the most important food crops in the developing world, and millions depend on good banana harvests for a living.
Unfortunately, according to National Geographic, commercial banana plantations usually exclusively grow one clonal variety of banana, the Cavendish. That's a problem because the plants have nearly identical genetics, meaning they're also identically susceptible to disease.
“The practice of growing crops with limited genetic diversity—technically called monoculture—aids in cheap and efficient commercial agriculture and marketing, but it leaves food systems dangerously vulnerable to disease epidemics,” according to the magazine.
But it’s not just the Cavendish variety at stake.
"Tropical Race 4 is capable of killing at least 80%—though possibly as much as 85%—of the 145 million tonnes (160 million tons) of bananas and plantains produced each year," Randy Ploetz, professor of plant pathology at University of Florida, said in an interview with Quartz. In 1989, Ploetz became the first to discover TR4.
Read more about the deadly fungus, its repercussions on the banana industry and which economies are especially at risk, at nationalgeographic.com.