Peach State Going 'Bananas'

By: Caroline Gonzmart Email
By: Caroline Gonzmart Email

It's a crop the U.S. spends $1.5 billion a year to import - and it's no secret that Americans are 'bananas' for bananas.

Historically, the fruit has been associated with tropical climates, but now researchers at the University of Georgia are hoping to change that.

Greg Fonsah has been working to introduce bananas in central and southern Georgia since 2003, and says the fruit has many more uses than just being a snack:

"...Bananas can also be used as ornamentals, bananas can be used for landscaping, the by-product is a sort of stem, what they call here the tree, can be transformed to bioenergy, and people are not thinking about that yet."

Researchers say because Georgia has colder and longer winters than where bananas are traditionally grown, they're looking for some that have shorter growing cycles, meaning farmers can harvest them faster.

Fonsah says the prospect of growing bananas has great 'a-peel' to southerners already.

He says he's been contacted by people both in the panhandle of Florida and central to southern Georgia about obtaining seedlings to start their own banana gardens.

But Fonsah says, while they're making leaps and bounds with their research, he's remaining mum until the fertilizers and food necessary to sustain the plants is approved by the government.

He also says they are looking for signs of disease, as well as techniques to treat them once they arise.

For now, enthusiastic banana-philes will have to settle with searching local nurseries for what could be Georgia's next big cash crop.

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