The banana variety 'Gros Michel' ("Dicker Michael"), also known in the US as "Big Mike", was the first export banana to the USA and until the end of the 1950s the most important commercial variety among dessert bananas worldwide. Although there were other dessert bananas, the 'Gros Michel' was particularly suitable for export to countries outside the tropics.
The 'Gros Michel' is originally from Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka) and was brought to Martinique by French naval officers in the 1820s. From there the cultivation spread to the Caribbean including Jamaica . According to legend, the wholesale export of bananas to the USA began in 1879 with the first shipment of 'Gros-Michel' bananas from Jamaica to New Jersey by sea captain Lorenzo Dow Baker, who later founded Boston Fruit with entrepreneur Andrew Preston. which is now part of Chiquita Brands International . The great export success of the Jamaica banana led to its widespread cultivation from Fiji via Nicaragua and Hawaii to Australia.
From the beginning of the 20th century until around 1960, a large part of the population was caused by Panama disease - caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense - destroyed. By 1960, all of the 'Gros Michel' importers were almost bankrupt because they had waited until the last minute to face this cultivation crisis with the necessary financial outlay. As an export product, the 'Gros Michel' was finally replaced by the 'Cavendish' banana from Vietnam , which was not susceptible to Panama disease. Because of the thicker shell, 'Gros Michel' requires less care during harvest and transport than the 'Cavendish'. The 'Gros Michel' is also considered to be tastier than the smaller 'Cavendish' banana variety.
The 'Cavendish' was later also attacked by a new variant of Panama disease. One now sees the main reason that plantation crops are susceptible to disease due to vegetative reproduction , which in fact equates to cloning . The Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research (FHIA), on the other hand, has been working on new varieties of bananas since 1958, which are grown by generative propagation with seed formation, including variants of the 'Gros Michel'. The first new banana varieties from the FHIA that are resistant to Panama disease (FHIA-01 from 1988) do not, however, descend from the 'Gros Michel' (FHIA-23).
After the large-scale decimation of the 'Gros Michel', this type of banana is now only grown in small areas. The export to non-tropical regions is limited to the delicatessen trade . Today the cultivation areas are the central Congo and some islands like Saint Lucia , which were spared from the epidemic.
- Dan Koeppel: Yes, We Will Have No Bananas. New York Times editorial , June 18, 2008, accessed July 5, 2018 .
- "The Sterile Banana" , Fred Pearce , Conservation Magazine , Vol. October 4-December 2008
- Carla Helfferich: "Battling for Bananas" ( Memento of the original from February 23, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Alaska Science Forum , 1990
- Anne Vecina: A Gros Michel success story. Pro Musa, November 1, 2008, accessed July 5, 2018 .
- John Soluri: Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, & Environmental Change in Honduras & the United States . University of Texas Press, 2006, ISBN 0-292-71256-1