Yes! We Have No Bananas.
When I think of agricultural monocultures, I generally think of corn. But there is another crop out there that is in danger — a crop that has had its genetics simplified down to the one species we all know and love, the Cavendish banana. Americans eat bananas more than any other kind of fresh fruit (26.2 pounds every year per person). They are cheap, available, and seemingly plentiful.
However, we used to be in love with a different kind of banana, the “big mike” (gros michel). That is, until Panama disease wiped it out. We then found the cultivar Cavendish banana which was resistant to Panama disease and bananas were saved. Now, however, “tropical race 4 Panama disease” is affecting banana plants in South Asia. It may be only a matter of time before the disease spreads and we need to find yet another cultivar.
The possible extinction of the banana that we have come to know brings up the question we must keep asking ourselves: why are we growing monocultures? Is it worth it? When disease took the “big mike” cultivar from us in the 1920s, we spent billions of dollars changing the growing system to adapt to the Cavendish cultivar. If the whole idea behind large scale single crop agriculture is the economic benefit, it doesn’t really seem to be panning out. Diversity is a necessity. Did you know that wild bananas used to have seeds? (They have since been bred out).