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Scientists have warned that the world’s banana crop, worth £26 billion and a crucial part of the diet of more than 400 million people, is facing “disaster” from virulent diseases immune to pesticides or other forms of control.
Alarm at the most potent threat – a fungus known as Panama disease tropical race 4 (TR4) – has risen dramatically after it was announced in recent weeks that it has jumped from South-east Asia, where it has already devastated export crops, to Mozambique and Jordan.
Scientists are particularly concerned about the impact of TR4 across the developing world, where an estimated 410 million people rely on the fruit for up to a third of their daily calories.
According to one estimate, TR4 could destroy up to 85 per cent of the world’s banana crop by volume.
It can wipe out plantations within two or three years and despite measures to try to prevent its spread from the original outbreak in Indonesia, it is now on the move. Such is the virulence of soil-based fungus, it can be spread in water droplets or tiny amounts of earth on machinery or shoes.