(P1) The world’s most popular type of BANANA is facing a major health CRISIS. According to a new study, a disease caused by a powerful FUNGUS is killing the Cavendish banana, which ACCOUNTS FOR 99% of the banana market around the globe. The disease, called Tropical Race 4 (TR4), has affected banana CROPS in southeast Asia for decades. In recent years, it has spread to the Middle East and the African nation of Mozambique. Now experts fear the disease will appear in Latin America, where most of the world’s bananas are grown.

(P2) “It isn’t there yet,” scientist Randy Ploetz said. He is one of the authors of the study. “But our concern is that it will somehow get across the Atlantic, ESTABLISH itself in the Americas, and cause some serious DAMAGE there.”

(P3) Once a banana plant is INFECTED with TR4, it cannot get NOURISHMENT from water, and BASICALLY dies of thirst. TR4 lives in soil, and can easily end up on a person’s boots. If the boots are then worn on a field where Cavendish bananas are grown, the disease could be transferred. “Once a field has been CONTAMINATED with the disease, you can’t grow Cavendish bananas there anymore,” Ploetz says. “The disease lasts a long time in the soil.”

(P4) Bright yellow Cavendish bananas are produced in mass quantities and are popular among consumers. “They’re what you buy in the grocery store, what you slice up and put on your cereal, and what your mom uses to make banana bread,” Ploetz says. “Consumers like the way Cavendish looks and tastes.”

(P5) But Cavendish is also particularly VULNERABLE to TR4. “You see a big field of bananas and each one is identical to its neighbor,” Ploetz says. “And they are all vulnerable to this disease. So once one plant gets infected, it just SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE throughout that entire PLANTATION.”

(P6) Bananas have faced this kind of crisis before. In the mid-1900s, the most popular banana at the time was nearly WIPED OUT by an earlier version of TR4.

(P7) One solution to address the problem, Ploetz says, is to try to develop new bananas that can resist TR4. “It really needs to be done, but we don’t have it yet.” He notes that we still have time before we need to worry about the Cavendish banana disappearing. “The question is, how much time do we have?” he says. “I don’t know. I hope TR4 never gets over here, but EVENTUALLY it probably will.”

WORDS: 415



If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Do you like bananas? What are your favorite fruits?
  3. Have you ever grown fruits or vegetables yourself?
  4. How could the banana disease travel from Africa and Asia to the Americas?
  5. What do you think is the best way to solve this banana problem? Protect against the disease, cure the disease, or create new bananas that aren’t vulnerable to the disease?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • Account for
  • Spread like wildfire
  • Wipe out

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