World’s most popular banana faces extinction. Can gene editing save it?

banana extinction

Suring the summer of 1989, Randy Ploetz was in his laboratory just south of Miami, when he received a package from Taiwan. Ploetz, who had earned his doctorate in plant pathology five years earlier, was collecting banana diseases and regularly received mysterious packages containing pathogens pulled out of the soil from far-flung plantations …. Ploetz realized …. was Tropical Race 4 (TR4) – a strain of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum cubense that lives in the soil, is impervious to pesticides, and kills banana plants by choking them of water and nutrients ….

TR4 only affects a particular type of banana called the Cavendish …. named after a British nobleman who grew the exotic fruit in his greenhouses …. [It] makes up almost the entire [banana] export market.

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But the Cavendish has no defence against TR4 …. So far, Latin America, which grows almost all of the world’s export bananas – including those for the US and Europe – has escaped TR4. But, Ploetz says, it’s only a matter of time …. Faced with a crisis that could see the Cavendish gone forever, a handful of researchers are racing to use gene-editing to create a better banana and bring the world’s first TR4-resistant Cavendish to the market.

Read full, original article: The banana is dying. The race is on to reinvent it before it’s too late

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