Scientists scramble to save the banana

  • Video report by ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi

They are the world’s most popular fruit – a staple of breakfasts, packed lunches and healthy snacks in kitchens everywhere.

But now a virulent disease is threatening to wreak havoc on banana crops worldwide and maybe even kill them off.

A fungus known as "fusarium wilt" is laying waste to banana plantations across the world and now it has reached our shores.

The fusarium fungus blackens the bananas and kills the plant. Credit: ITV News

Dr Rachel Warmington from The Eden Project in Cornwall, which showcases plants from many diverse climates, told ITV News their biomes (biological communities which share a climate) are now home to one of the least attractive things that grows in this environment.

"We were really surprised when we found that we had fusarium wilt in our banana exhibit, but it has enabled us to get involved in research about the disease.

"The banana goes completely yellow, wilts and collapses so poses a massive threat."

Bananas fuel whole economies worldwide: they are the biggest export of Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Belize and the second most valuable export for Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras.

Presently there is no known cure for the fungus.

"It's causing devastation in banana plantations because once a plantation has it, they can't treat it and a lot of these countries rely on them because it's their livelihood, for them it's their main export product," she added.

Scientists at The Eden Project are trialling possible cures Credit: ITV News

However, there may still be hope for Britain's favourite fruit as scientists at The Eden Project are trialling possible cures for this fatal fungus.

So far it has not yet reached the Caribbean or Latin America, where most of the UK's banana supplies come from, but Britain is now on the front line of the fight to beat the fungus.