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Heading out tomorrow for the Sea-Pac conference. Looking forward to it - there are some seminars I want to attend and there is an event at the beach that should be a lot of fun. Seaside, OR is known for kite flying and this is the first year that they will use a kite to hoist an antenna. The higher an antenna is, the better the reception so it will be interesting to see who they can contact.

The conference actually runs Thursday through Sunday - I am going down three days earlier to spend some time on the coast - spending Monday there as well and back home sometime on Tuesday depending if I feel like stopping another night on the road somewhere (I love Port Townsend). Bringing the laptop so some beach-blogging will be in order.

Eating Hawaiian tonight - got some chicken breasts marinating in shoyu, ginger, rice vinegar, salt and sugar - grill these and serve with rice and stir-fried bok choy.

Monoculture farming

Not a good thing and for just this reason - from Popular Science:

Has The End Of The Banana Arrived?
Two weeks ago, at a conference in South Africa, scientists met to discuss how to contain a deadly banana disease outbreak in nearby Mozambique, Africa. At fault was a fungus that continues its march around the planet. In recent years, it has spread across Asia and Australia, devastating plants there that bear the signature yellow supermarket fruit.

The international delegation of researchers shared their own approaches to the malady, hoping to arrive at some strategy to insulate Mozambique and the rest of Africa: a continent where bananas are essential to the lives of millions. They left the Cape Town-based meeting with an air of optimism.

Only days after the meeting, however, a devastating new survey of the stricken Mozambique farm was released. Scientists at the conference assumed that the fungus was limited to a single plot. The new report suggested the entire plantation was infested, expanding 125 diseased acres to more than 3,500. All told, 7 million banana plants were doomed to wilt and rot.

“The future looks bleak,” says Altus Viljoen, the South African plant pathologist who organized the conference. "There’s no way they’ll be able to stop any further spread if they continue to farm.” Worse, he says, the disease's rapid spread endangers banana crops beyond Mozambique’s borders.

And this is not the first time for Bananas:

The most astonishing thing is that this has happened before, with a breed of banana introduced to America and Europe in the early 20th century. Called the Gros Michel, it was entirely different from the kind of banana we enjoy today and made the fortunes of Chiquita and Dole. These companies created an agricultural business model based on monoculture, whose singular focus resembles the fast food industry more than traditional farming.

The “Big Mike” cultivar soon began succumbing to a variant of Fusarium now known as “Race 1.” By 1960, the breed was functionally extinct. Its replacement is today’s supermarket banana, called the Cavendish. From the start banana marketers considered it an inferior product — less flavorful and more perishable. Yet facing bankruptcy in the wake of the Gros Michel’s disappearance, they adopted it at the last minute to save their industry.

And of course:

The best solution, banana scientists have told me, is variety. Turning the commercial banana crop from a monoculture (in which every Cavendish plant is essentially a clone) to one with multiple resistant breeds would help insulate plantations against disease and also bring some really delicious fruit to consumers. The Cavendish, I can tell you from experience, is a lousy tasting banana compared to just about everything else; in India, where 600 banana varieties are grown, Cavendish is derisively called “the hotel banana.”

The next five years will tell... When visiting Hawaii, I love the Apple bananas but they are too perishable to ship commercially.

May 2016

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