Banana Genome Cracked
Bananas are undoubtedly of huge importance to many tropical and subtropical countries, and this breakthrough sequencing will assist in the production of more resistant bananas and reduction of pesticide use
Banana Genome Cracked
The humble yellow Banana - a staple food world-wide - faces pests and diseases threatening to wipe it out globally, so in an effort to save the fruit, scientists have, for the first time, sequenced the banana genome, an accomplishment opening the way to development of hardier and better banana crops.
Bananas are undoubtedly of huge importance to many tropical and subtropical countries, and this breakthrough sequencing will assist in the production of more resistant bananas and reduction of pesticide use. First grown domestically in Southeast Asia 7,000 years ago, their use. migrated around the globe.
Much cross pollination resulted in bananas gradually becoming seedless and totally sterile, so these days, instead of multiplication through sexual reproduction - mixing up the gene pool is avoided by banana cultivation through vegetative propagation - simply cutting off a section of one plant to grow on its own - the process through which cassava, sweet potatoes and yams among several other major African crops, are grown.
That is why the variety making up 50% of all bananas eaten world-wide - the Cavendish - is an exact clone, their shape, size, colour and flavour consistent, though the Banana parasites have, over time adapted so successfully that up to 50 applications a year of pesticides are these days required to keep banana crops from collapsing.
Researchers have now discovered several genes involved in pest resistance, though the sequencing took a long time because the banana genome is very complicated. While all bananas are clones, original gene forms - from mother and father plants - remain different from each other, and by finally deciphering its sequence, scientists have made a major step toward isolating key genes that will eventually lead to better bananas, able to resist both droughts and diseases.
In Uganda as well as other East African countries, losing the banana crop would be a humanitarian disaster, so this breakthrough research is especially important to the developing third world countries in which starchy varieties of bananas supply substantial amounts of calories to the human diet.