According to new research, climate change has raised the risk of a fungal disease that ravages banana crops. Specifically, Black Sigatoka disease emerged from Asia in the late 20th century and has recently completed its invasion of banana-growing areas in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The new study, by the University of Exeter, says changes to moisture and temperature conditions have increased the risk of Black Sigatoka by more than 44% in these areas since the 1960s.
International trade and increased banana production have also aided the spread of Black Sigatoka, which can reduce the fruit produced by infected plants by up to 80%.
Eurekalert.org quoted dr Daniel Bebber from the University of Exeter as saying: "Black Sigatoka is caused by a fungus (Pseudocercospora fijiensis) whose lifecycle is strongly determined by weather and microclimate. 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. Despite the overall rise in the risk of Black Sigatoka in the areas we examined, drier conditions in some parts of Mexico and Central America have reduced infection risk."
Black Sigatoka, which is virulent against a wide range of banana plants, was first reported in Honduras in 1972. It spread throughout the region to reach Brazil in 1998 and the Caribbean islands of Martinique, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines in the late 2000s. The disease now occurs as far north as Florida.