One of Our Favorite Fruits Looks Doomed
A lethal fungus jumped continents in 2013 and is on a global rampage
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 1, 2015 7:21 AM CST
A man carries a box of bananas given to him in Panama City, Panama, in this Nov. 22, 2007, file photo.   (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)
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(Newser) – If you like bananas, it's time to start savoring them while you still can. A deadly fungus that's been killing the plant since the 1960s has jumped continents, moving from where it ravaged crops for decades in Southeast Asia to parts of South Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa—and that's just since 2013, reports Quartz. The so-called "Panama" disease is spreading thanks to a single clone of the Fusarium fungus, also called Tropical Race 4, scientists report in the journal PLOS Pathogens. Worse still, one of the world's most popular bananas, the Cavendish, is particularly susceptible to this strain. The soil-borne fungus travels up the plant's roots, ultimately killing the plant and infesting entire banana plots, which are then contaminated for years.

Entire swaths of banana plantations in Australia, China, the Philippines, Jordan, Mozambique, Pakistan, and beyond have been infested in the past two years, putting many farmers and families out of business and cutting them off from a major food source, reports PhysOrg. Right now the only way to fight the disease is through strict quarantine, so researchers are trying to spread the word about effective measures in the hopes of getting a step ahead of the fast-spreading fungus before it hits Latin America, where most of the world's bananas are grown. Once it lands there, notes Quartz, "the days of the iconic yellow fruit are numbered." (Some researchers hope it's possible to genetically modify bananas to resist the fungus.)