Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 374, 20180269 (2019).
Bananas are an important tropical staple crop but are highly susceptible to several diseases, including Black Sigatoka caused by the ascomycete fungus Pseudocercospora fijiensis. Understanding future disease risk requires an understanding of how historical climate change has altered past disease risk.
Daniel P. Bebber, of the University of Exeter, UK, takes a forward modelling approach that utilizes experimental data to parameterize an infection model that examines whether climate conditions over the last 60 years in Latin America and the Caribbean were favourable for spore germination and growth of Black Sigatoka disease. Climate change over that period made crop canopies wetter and temperatures more suitable for disease development, substantially increasing the risk of disease by a median of 44.2% in banana-growing areas of the region. Infection risk was greatest in eastern Nicaragua, Panama and coastal Guyana, and increased most rapidly across the Amazon basin.
The current research does not predict the potential future impact of climate change on Black Sigatoka disease or subsequent banana yields. Further research exploring the interactions between abiotic conditions, host availability and agricultural management practices is needed.