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Fungal diseases may wipe out banana in a decade

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Sydney,August 16: Banana could well be wiped out globally in just five to 10 years by fast-advancing fungal diseases, warn researchers.

The threat could be coming from something called the Sigatoka complex, made up from three fungal diseases, which pose a huge risk to the world’s banana supply.

Researchers at the University of California – Davis in the US and in the Netherlands discovered how this group of three closely related fungal pathogens evolved into a lethal threat to the world’s bananas.

banana 2-min

The banana is the world’s leading fruit crop and ranks fourth as a global staple food. Almost 140 million tonnes of the fruit are produced across the world every year. At almost 25 million tonnes annually, India leads among the 10 major producers globally.

Bananas are prone to many diseases and  also suffers from an “image problem,” giving consumers the appearance that it is and always will be readily available, said one of the researchers, Ioannis Stergiopoulos from the University of California – Davis.

Already, the Sigatoka disease complex can reduce banana yields by 50-70 per cent, if not controlled.

The Sigatoka disease complex is a cluster of three closely related fungi — yellow sigatoka (Pseudocercospora musae), eumusae leaf spot (Pseudocercospora eumusae) and black sigatoka (Pseudocercospora fijiensis) — which emerged in quick succession during the last century as destructive pathogens on banana.

file photo

file photo

Yellow sigatoka was the first of the three to be recorded on banana, although eumusae leaf spot and black sigatoka are now the most devastating. Black sigatoka, in fact, is posing the greatest constraint to banana production worldwide, the study said.

Black sigatoka is air-borne and affects the leaves of banana plants in small and large-scale plantations, and without chemical control it results in huge yield losses.

“Now, for the first time, we understand the genomic basis of the evolution of virulence in these fungal diseases, thus giving us an opportunity for intervention,” Stergiopoulos said. (IANS)

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Nature

France ditches plans for controversial west coast airport

Activists on the 1,600-hectare rural site say they have developed it into a utopia of organic farming and political debate.

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Edouard Philippe

The French government on Wednesday formally abandoned decades-old plans for a controversial new airport on the west coast that became a site of resistance for environmental activists.

In a keenly awaited announcement, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the divisions unleashed by the proposed new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near the city of Nantes made it impossible to proceed.

“The project cannot go ahead in a climate of bitter opposition between two sides of the population that are nearly equal in size,” he said, adding: “The project is therefore abandoned.

The decision ends years of debate over a project first mooted in the 1960s — but sets the stage for a possible standoff with environmental activists who have been occupying the airport site for the past decade.

Activists on the 1,600-hectare rural site say they have developed it into a utopia of organic farming and political debate.

Philippe gave them until the spring to leave voluntarily, after which they would be evicted.

“We will put a stop to the no-go zone which has flourished in this area for nearly 10 years,” he said.

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Nature

Southern California wildfire largest on record

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Los Angeles, Dec 23: The wildfire, which has razed 273,400 acres in southern California so far, has become the largest wildfire in the state since records began.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that the Thomas fire, which began on December 4, had surpassed the fire Cedar, which had burned 273,246 acres in San Diego county in October 2003, reports Efe news.

Records of the area destroyed by wildfires have been kept by the organisation since 1932.

Thomas has destroyed 1,063 buildings and killed two, compared to the 2,820 destroyed by Cedar and 15 deaths caused.

Although during the first few days Thomas was difficult to control and spread rapidly through Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, in the last few days emergency services have managed to practically stop the wildfire’s progress and have contained 65 per cent of the flames.

This year is turning out to be California’s worst year for wildfires on record, mainly because of massive fires in October in several counties in the northern part of the state, which ravaged many wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties.

Those fires claimed the lives of 44 people and destroyed close to 8,900 houses and structures, according to the final estimates of the authorities.

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Assam: 40 Elephants die in 100 days as man-animal conflicts increase

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Elephants
Elephant crossinf railway line

Almost 40 Elephants died due to unnatural incidents within 100 days in Assam. According to a report published in The Times Of India , All of them have been killed due to unnatural causes, with the primary reasons being mowing down by moving train, electrocution, poisoning and accidentally falling in ditches especially in tea garden areas.

Bibhab Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak, an NGO that works on biodiversity conservation told the times of India,“It is very unfortunate that more than 40 elephants have died in the last 100 days. It clearly shows that elephants are not getting priority when it comes to conservation of animals.”

While rhinos in state are confined to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, an estimated population of 500 elephants in Assam have habitats across all reserved forests. The state has five elephant reserves covering an estimated area of 10,967-sq km. Only a small portion of these reserves are in protected areas, in the form of national parks or wildlife sanctuaries, while the rest are reserved forest areas.

Conservationists pointed out that elephant reserves in the state do not enjoy the same level of protection as national parks. They fear the large-scale deforestation of elephant habitats, which lie outside protected areas, has endangered the survival of elephants.

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