Read a text about a fungus threatening bananas to practice and improve your reading skills.
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The Gros Michel banana, sometimes known as Big Mike, was the most profitable crop for commercial banana producers in Central America in the 1950s. And now it's happening once more to the Cavendish, Big Mike's heir.
The Gros Michel banana plant dominated Central American banana plantations because of its readily transported, thick-skinned, sweet-tasting fruit.The primary producer and exporter of bananas in South America at the time, United Fruit, mass-produced them using the most effective methods: it cloned plant shoots from stems rather than starting plants from seeds and planted them in closely spaced fields.
Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense, which attacks the plant's roots and prevents it from transporting water to the stem and leaves, unfortunately thrives in these conditions, making it easy for it to spread.The TR-1 strain of the fungus travelled on boots or truck tyres, was resistant to crop pesticides, and gradually infected plantations throughout the area. Farmers abandoned sick areas in an effort to get rid of the fungus, flooded them, and then transplanted crops elsewhere, frequently clearing rainforest in the process.
Their attempts fell short. Instead, they looked for a banana type that was unaffected by the fungus. The so-called Cavendish was discovered in a British duke's greenhouse.Although it wasn't as well suited to transportation as the Gros Michel, the quality of its bananas was sufficient to satisfy customers. What's more, TR-1 didn't seem to have any impact on it. By planting tens of thousands of the new plants on its plantations, United Fruit was able to avoid bankruptcy in a few years by mimicking the monoculture growth conditions that Gros Michel had found success in.
The Cavendish banana is not at all safe, despite the fact that the operation was a major success for the Latin American sector. Four million tonnes of Cavendish bananas were exported from South East Asia, another significant supplier of bananas, in 2014. But in 2015, as a result of a combination of the TR-4 fungal strain and unfavourable weather, its shipments had decreased by 46%.
South East Asian growing techniques haven't made things any better. The costly lab techniques to clone plants from shoots without spreading the disease are not always accessible to growers. Additionally, they frequently fail to be severe enough about disinfecting farm equipment and isolating affected fields. As a result, the fungus has spread to Australia, the Middle East, and Mozambique. Given how dependent Latin America is on its monoculture Cavendish crops, it's possible that these regions will soon be infected as well.
Researchers are attempting to halt the inevitable by genetically altering the Cavendish with DNA from TR-4-resistant banana species.Two types of transgenic plants that have been successfully produced by researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have so far stayed resistant for three years. However, other experts believe that this is really a more advanced form of the same temporary fix that the original Cavendish offered. Another strain of the disease could emerge and threaten the modified plants if the new bananas are planted in the same monocultures as the Cavendish and the Gros Michel before them.
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