This isn’t the first time I read such a dire warning: will bananas vanish from the breakfast table?
The Cavendish, which makes up most of the global market — is under assault from insect infestations, declining soil fertility and climate change. But the biggest hazard by far are two plant pathogens that are scavenging their way through vast monoculture (large scale, single-crop) plantations of this fruit worldwide. livescience.com
Industrial farming means machines do a lot of the work, and that means farms are created for machines. To be efficient, machines must be both smart and stupid. Where they’re stupid, we simplify and change the environment to fit their needs.
I don’t know how mechanized banana farming is, but the monoculture approach has generally produced huge amounts of cheap food. It’s a great success until it isn’t.
I doubt bananas are doomed. We’ve been through this before. In the 1950s, the Gros Michel variety was attacked by fusarium wilt, and so the Cavendish was bred to replace it. This lovely fruit now accounts for what we in America see in our stores. Still harvested from huge monoculture farms.
Today, there are hundreds of varieties of non-commercial banana. The beloved fruit will survive and probably never leave our shelves. In another few decades, we’ll breed another new variety to dodge another threat. We know how to breed bananas.
Now if we could only learn how to grow them sustainably. Maybe smarter machines are the answer. Or maybe smarter humans.