France introduces banana resistant to black Sigatoka—deadly disease that can cut fruit yields 50%

black sigatoka
Damaged banana leaf, caused by the fungal disease, black Sigatoka. Credit: Iowa State University

A new variety of banana that is resistant to black Sigatoka and can be produced using organic and agro-ecological production methods is set to become commercially available in France.

The innovation is the product of an alliance launched by the French Agricultural Research Center for International Development (CIRAD) focused on addressing the issues facing the banana sector worldwide. According to the agro-research alliance, if new varieties and production systems are not developed the worldwide supply of bananas could come under threat, primarily due to diseases.

The risk factor is due to a lack of genetic diversity in the current commercial banana crop. Currently, only one variety of banana is grown for international export markets: the Cavendish. But it is particularly susceptible to certain diseases present in many production areas, including the French West Indies.

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One such disease threatening current banana production is black Sigatoka, which attacks the foliage of banana trees. Black Sigatoka disrupts photosynthesis and can reduce fruit yield by up to 50%. It can also interrupt ripening, causing fruit to ripen prematurely and unevenly, and making it unsuitable for export.

The bananas will be available from the beginning of March in Carrefour Bio stores, first in Ile de France.

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