Bananas on the cover – a videoblog

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Banana fruit bunch
Banana fruit bunch

We used a bunch of bananas, one of the species I work with, as the main background image on the cover of Annals of Botany two years ago. I am discussing the cover images in Annals of Botany in three video blogs.

The video blog is directly available in YouTube at http://youtu.be/UsjbhWnHQpA – please use the 1080p version if you have a fast internet connection – and a summary with more information is given below.

The video blog is directly available in YouTube at http://youtu.be/UsjbhWnHQpA – please use the 1080p version if you have a fast internet connection.

The plant shown on the cover is healthy and has survived a tropic storm, so shows the wind-damaged leaves adapting to this abiotic or environmental stress. But I was visiting the site to see a biotic – organism caused – stress, the devastating Fusarium tropical race 4 disease on other varieties being grown at the same site (http://botany.one/2011/05/bananas-disease-diversity-research-and-the-one-show/). While the picture could have been taken nearly anywhere in the humid tropics or sub-tropics, it was actually taking in Guangzhou, south China, on an island in the Pearl River. Apart from high resolution digital photography, a real advantage for field work has been GPS, and the ability to automatically geotag the locations where photographs are taken, and Google maps can pinpoint the point I stood to take the photograph – 22° 18′ 48″N, 113° 19′ 54″E. Banana originates from the Indo-Malayan Center of diversity, mostly 500 to 2000 km to the south and west of Guangzhou, running from Papua New Guinea through the Malaysian penninsula, parts of China, Thailand and Burma, into India (see for example my review of banana domestication and superdomestication at dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcm191 and from the meeting in China when this photograph was taken). The cover picture shows a cultivar rather than a wild species. The illustrated bunch is a variety called Pisang Awak, and is disease free although rather badly damaged by a tropical storm which came through three days before my visit. However, the main purpose of this visit was to see the devastation of the the tropical race 4 of Fusarium oxysprorum f. sp. cubense, the Panama disease that is destroying the major export variety of banana, Cavendish. You can see me in front of a plant with the infection – the leaves are yellowed and dying, and all the fruit has fallen before ripening. Agronomy and chemical control are essentially impossible for this disease, so only strict biosecurity is controlling its spread outside South East Asia. I made sure I scrubbed my shoes in bleach solution after this visit. More positively, though, as was obvious from the uninfected plants in the same plantation, other banana varieties have resistance to this disease, and hopefully in the next year we will be making more progress to identifying the genes and genetics involved (http://www.mendeley.com/research/genomes-diversity-resistance-gene-analogues-musa-species/)


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