We’ve Got No Bananas Today

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Hawaiian Bananas

This is something you will never hear while you are on Kauai. From the backyard where that leaky faucet is of some use because it waters your banana plants, to the family farms in Wailua and WaimeaValley that grow a significant portion of the fruit eaten in the markets. Bananas are everywhere on Kauai.

What’s fun for the visitor to Kauai is that they can sample many different varieties of banana with their taste and textural differences and compare them to probably the only variety of banana they have ever eaten, the Cavendish. The Cavendish, originally from southern China, represents 99% of the global export market, it is grown around the world from Asia, to Australia, to Latin America. There are about one thousand varieties of banana on the planet and the world eats only one variety of this fruit. Could you imagine only one choice of pear or apple? No, of course not, but that is how it is with the banana. However, this may change.

No, I am not a marketing genius that can convince you that your Cavendish has a competitor that will supplant it on the worlds culinary stage. Mother Nature may do that for us.There is a soil borne fungus known as, Tropical Race 4, or simply (TR4), it was identified in Taiwan in the late 1980’s. It has been devastating the Cavendish variety beginning in Asia, then establishing itself in Australia where farmers are plowing their fields and planting other crops. Experts say that it is only a matter of time before this pathogen reaches Latin America where 99% of North America’s bananas are grown. There is no known quick fix to stop its spread.

Plant breeders are working to find a variety that looks, tastes and feels like the Cavendish but have not found the right characteristics that show resistance to the fungus. In the plant world these types of blights are not uncommon, continuous mono-cultural farming allows pests to adapt over time to soil conditions and pesticides. Sometimes causing catastrophic results.

How do we protect our food sources? By promoting bio diversity, supporting a wide varietal range of fruits and vegetables. Farmers are going to grow varieties that the consumer wants. Support growers who produce different nutritious varieties of bananas here and when you are at home.  Supporting local farmers and ranchers who grow sustainably by alternating crops to provide organic nutrients that will support the new crop the following season. Crop rotation alters pest life cycles and decreases populations naturally, this is responsible agriculture. Additionally rotating crops create symbiotic microbial relationships in the soil profile that promote friable soils that encourage root development. A hardy plant provides great nutrition which is the end result of planning and conscientious farming inputs.

Thank a farmer and praise his efforts.

About Joe Sylvester

Aloha! I have lived on Kauai for 33 years where I have worked as an Agronomist for 17 years, owned an art gallery for 11 years and own a vacation rental for 17 years in the town of Poipu. I am a former Peace Corps volunteer and have been married since 1985.
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Comments

  1. For twenty years I have been planting and living a bio diverse agricultural existence here on Kauai at Honua Lani Gardens. Thankfully the need for sustainable agriculture is going mainstream. Hopefully it is not too late and we can save the banana I can’t imagine life without banana’s in my smoothies! Great article Joe, Mahalo.

  2. For twenty years I have been planting and living a bio diverse agricultural existence here on Kauai at Honua Lani Gardens. Thankfully the need for sustainable agriculture is going mainstream. Hopefully it is not too late and we can save the banana I can’t imagine life without banana’s in my smoothies! Mahalo.

  3. Aloha Jai, Thank you for your comments here and contributions to Sustainability Forums Kauai. It’s you and a few others here on Kauai that have a significant task in guiding us to a more harmonious agricultural future. I know after twenty years working in corporate agriculture I have got to re think what I thought were agricultural fundamentals about soil amendments, and soil tilth.

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