Monday, June 9, 2008

I'm learning and you can too!

Lately I've been reading about how the type of banana we eat (the Cavendish) is under threat of Panama disease, a soil fungus. Apparently, until the 1960s, North Americans ate a different type of banana that was wiped out by this same fungus. Reportedly, the old bananas were much tastier than the Cavendish. However, I've also heard that these bananas used to walk 15 miles to school in the deep winter snow, uphill both ways.

I'm not too worried about the banana situation as there are a few hundred other varieties being cultivated around the world. If the Cavendish is wiped out, different types of bananas can be grown and imported. Don't worry. There is no impending banana dooms day.

What's interesting about this story is how bananas are grown and the reason they can be wiped out. Unlike wild bananas, which are full of giant hard seeds, domestic bananas are seedless mutants. Sometimes, banana plants in the jungle spontaneously produce new plants with two full sets of sex chromosomes, making them delicious but uanble to reproduce. People take cuttings from these plants and cultivate them for food. The result is fields full of carefully-cultivated clones of the original plant. Being genetically identical, the whole crop is susceptible to the same diseases. Consequently, if one plant is taken out by a certain pesticide-resistant fungus, the other plants are likely to follow.

Who knew?

Background by Jennifer Furlotte / Pixels and IceCream