Climate change driving fungal disease that could wipe out banana crops

Climate change driving fungal disease that could wipe out banana crops

By Will Bugler

A fungal disease that attacks banana crops is on the rise thanks to climate change, suggests new research. Black Sigatoka, also known as “black leaf streak,” has been on the move since the 1960s from Asia to areas now including the Caribbean, Latin America and most recently to parts of Florida.

The fungal disease can reduce fruit production on infected plants by up to 80 percent, according to a study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

The research found that changes to moisture and temperature conditions as a result of climate change have increased the risk of Black Sigatoka by more than 44 percent in affected areas during the past six decades.

“This research shows that climate change has made temperatures better for spore germination and growth, and made crop canopies wetter, raising the risk of Black Sigatoka infection in many banana-growing areas of Latin America,” said the study’s lead author Daniel Bebber of the University of Exeter.

The study makes no predictions about what future climate change might mean for the spread of the fungus or the risk to future banana crops throughout the world. However, it is indicative of the increased risk of pests and diseases that many crops face as global temperatures rise.

The study can be found here.

Cover photo by Lotte Löhr on Unsplash.

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