Lidl employee Joseph Lupo arranges bananas in the produce aisle in Lake Grove, New York. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Lidl employee Joseph Lupo arranges bananas in the produce aisle in Lake Grove, New York. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Healthy Cavendish banana plants grow in Colombia. All sorts of bananas are grown around the world. But the ones shipped to the United States are mostly Cavendish bananas. (AP/Fernando Vergara)

Healthy Cavendish banana plants grow in Colombia. All sorts of bananas are grown around the world. But the ones shipped to the United States are mostly Cavendish bananas. (AP/Fernando Vergara)

This photo from 1919 shows a “Big Mike” banana plant in Costa Rica that was attacked by Panama disease.

This photo from 1919 shows a “Big Mike” banana plant in Costa Rica that was attacked by Panama disease.

These banana plants were killed to stop the TR4 fungus from spreading. This farm is near Riohacha, Colombia. (AP/Fernando Vergara)

These banana plants were killed to stop the TR4 fungus from spreading. This farm is near Riohacha, Colombia. (AP/Fernando Vergara)

The Blue Java banana (nicknamed the Ice Cream banana) may become the next favorite. This cultivar (cross between two other bananas) has a creamy texture and tastes like vanilla. (Forest & Kim Starr/CC BY 3.0)

The Blue Java banana (nicknamed the Ice Cream banana) may become the next favorite. This cultivar (cross between two other bananas) has a creamy texture and tastes like vanilla. (Forest & Kim Starr/CC BY 3.0)

Bananas in Trouble

Posted: July 1, 2021

Will people everywhere soon be wearing banana clothes? Will they be walking on banana carpets? Will they trade banana money for banana hair extensions? Maybe . . . if banana plants hang around long enough.

People love bananas. This favorite fruit is sweet, portable, and cheap. But banana farmers know something most people don’t. A fungal disease called Tropical Race 4 (TR4) moves across continents. It’s looking for banana patches to destroy.

TR4 starts in soil. It can hide there for decades. Then—surprise—it starts to choke banana plants. Green banana leaves turn yellow. Their edges get brown. The leaves fall. That might be okay for a maple tree in October. But it’s not okay for a banana plant. Ever.

A similar fungus wiped out bananas once before. Panama disease attacked the “Big Mike” banana. Before the 1950s, everyone was eating Big Mikes. Have you ever noticed that banana-flavored candy doesn’t taste much like bananas? That’s because that flavoring is likely based on Big Mike. You’re probably not used to that banana. Ever since Panama disease, people have been eating mostly Cavendish bananas instead.

Cavendish bananas can resist Panama disease. But they can’t fight TR4. They have the same problem Big Mikes had. Every single Cavendish banana plant is genetically identical to every other Cavendish banana plant. When a disease comes through, it can destroy all the plants at once. Scientists scurry. They need to grow a new banana variety that can resist TR4.

God made people in His image. They’re creative like Him. Thinkers like Kimani Muturi show their creativity by using every part of the banana plant. And cultivators watching bananas show another kind of inventiveness. They’re planning to solve big problems even before they happen.

The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance. — Proverbs 21:5