Greek-led research team discovers the reason bananas smell and rot

12 August 2016
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Researchers at the University of California, Davis, and in the Netherlands have discovered how a group of three closely related fungal pathogens have evolved into a lethal threat to the world’s bananas, whilst an international consortium led by scientists from Wageningen UR (University & Research Centre) has unravelled the DNA of the fungus that causes black Sigatoka disease in bananas. The findings provide leads for increasing the sustainability of banana cultivation, for instance through the development of a resistant banana plant. Both studies were published in PLOS Genetics on August 11. This fresh understanding of the DNA of the black Sigatoka fungus is also providing new information that is useful in the development of more effective and, hopefully, less environmentally unfriendly crop protection products. This could reduce the amount of fungicide spraying which, in turn, would improve the quality of life of the people working in the plantations and those who live in the immediate surroundings. “We have discovered that the two more destructive pathogens share a pattern of parallel changes in their core metabolic pathways that enables them to exploit more efficiently the nutrient resources available in banana,” said Stergiopoulos, who along with bioinformatician Ti-Cheng Chang, led the effort to sequence and analyze the fungal genomes of eumusae leaf spot and yellow sigatoka, comparing their findings with the previously sequenced black sigatoka genome sequence. “Now, for the first time, we understand the genomic basis of the evolution of virulence in these fungal diseases, thus giving us an opportunity for intervention,” Stergiopoulos said.

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