The Cavendish subgroup is the most widely grown group of bananas since it includes the cultivars that dominate the international trade in bananas (e.g. Grande Naine, Williams and Valery) and as such have set the standards in terms of taste, yield and post-harvest characteristics expected of an export banana. They are also increasingly grown for domestic markets. In 2010, Cavendish cultivars accounted for about 40% of the global production of bananas, which includes the 27% produced for domestic markets and the 14% grown for export. Their domination of the international trade started in the late 1950s when they were selected to replace Gros Michel, whose susceptibility to Fusarium wilt precluded its cultivation in large commercial plantations. Although Cavendish cultivars are resistant to the race 1 strains of the fungus that causes the disease, they are susceptible to tropical race 4.
Cavendish cultivars belong to the AAA genome group, which includes all the cultivars that have three sets of chromosomes donated by the wild species Musa acuminata. Molecular analyses of accessions in collections have revealed that Cavendish and Gros Michel cultivars are half-siblings, that is they have a parent in common, the one that contributed both copies of its genome (triploid bananas are derived from a cross between two diploid (2n) parents — one which normally passed on one copy (n) of its diploid genome, whereas the other contributed both copies (2n), a phenomenon called meiotic restitution). The 2n donor is a cultivar in the Mlali subgroup, a group of diploid bananas currently found in East Africa only. The closest living representative related to that ancestral Mlali cultivar is Chimoili Kana Nkoboï, not Akondro Mainty as previously thought. The parents that contributed the n gamete were probably different, but genetically close, culitvars from the Khai subgroup. Since triploid bananas are for all practical purposes sterile, from that point on diversity was created by natural mutations. The Cavendish subgroup is essentially composed of cultivars that diverged from each other through mutations. The exact number of cultivars is not known.
The cultivars in this subgroup are difficult to tell apart and exhibit a gradation in height from the shortest (Dwarf Cavendish) to the tallest (Lacatan). The fruits are long and slightly curved. A persistent floral relict is attached to the fruit apex, which is moderately tapered. The bunch is cylindrical, with 10 or more hands.
Host reaction to pests and diseases
Cavendish cultivars are susceptible to Mycosphaerella fijiensis and Mycosphaerella musicola, respectively the causal agents of black leaf streak and Sigatoka leaf spot. They are also susceptible to the banana bunchy top virus — but then again so are all other types of bananas — and to nematodes.
Local names and synonyms of Cavendish cultivars in the banana cultivar checklist.