Climate change could negatively impact banana cultivation in some of the world’s most important producing and exporting countries, our paper in Nature Climate Change shows. But, producers in Africa will continue to benefit until at least 2050.

While many studies have looked at the impact of climate change on agricultural production, the effect rising temperatures and changing rainfall has on crucial tropical crops such as the banana are less well understood.

We analysed both the recent and future impact of climate change on the world’s leading banana producers and exporters. We show that 27 countries – accounting for 86 per cent of the world’s dessert banana production – have on average seen increased crop yield since 1961 due to the changing climate resulting in more favourable growing conditions. However, the analysis also suggests that these gains could be significantly reduced, or disappear completely, by 2050 if climate change continues at its expected rate.

Our analysis suggests that 10 countries – including the world’s largest producer and consumer of banana India and the fourth largest producer, Brazil – are predicted to see a significant decline in crop yields. The study does highlight that some countries – including Ecuador (the largest exporter) and Honduras, as well as a number of African countries – may see an overall benefit in crop yields.

We’re very concerned about the impact of diseases like Fusarium Wilt (Panama Disease) on bananas, but the impacts of climate change have been largely ignored. There will be winners and losers in coming years, and our study may stimulate vulnerable countries to prepare through investment in technologies like irrigation.

Grown throughout the tropics and subtropics, bananas are a key crop for millions of people across the world. In Britain, for example, more than five billion bananas are purchased each year, and the UK accounts for seven per cent of the global export market. Such international trade can play a pivotal role to local and national economies in producing countries. For example, bananas and their derived products constitute the second largest agricultural export commodity of Ecuador and Costa Rica. Given this importance, predicting the potential impacts of climate change on banana production systems is crucial to ensuring its long-term survival.

The paper can be read for free here: https://rdcu.be/bP6H6

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