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'Gros Michel'


'Gros Michel' at a glance

GrosMichel_image.jpg

Ploidy level

3x

Genome group

AAA

Subgroup

Gros Michel

Status

Cultivar

ITC code

ITC1122, ITC0484

'Gros Michel' is the cultivar that dominated the international banana trade during the first part of the 20th century. In the late 1950s it was replaced with Cavendish cultivars because of its susceptibility to Fusarium wilt. The wild species that contributed to its triploid genome is Musa acuminata, hence the shorthand AAA to describe its genome group. The Gros Michel subgroup is named after this cultivar.

Local names

'Thihmwe' (Burma/Myanmar), 'Criollo' (Costa Rica), 'Banano', 'Habano', 'Guineo', 'Guineo Patriota' (Colombia), 'Johnson' (Cuba), 'Jainabalavau' (Fiji), "Raimbaud', 'Makanguia' (French Antilles), 'Figue Raimbaud' (Guadeloupe), 'Bluefields' (Hawai'i), 'Pisang Ambon Putih' (Indonesia), 'Pouyat Banana' (Jamaica), 'Pisang Embun', Pisang Ambon' (Malaysia), 'Makanguia', 'Figue Baudin' (Martinique), 'Plantano Roatan' (Mexico), 'La Patriota' (Nicaragua), 'Avabakor', 'Disu' (Papua New Guinea), 'Ambon' (Philippines), 'Guineo Gigante', 'Guaran' (Puerto Rico), 'Au Malie', 'Fa'i Fia Palagi' (Samoa), 'Anamala' (Sri Lanka), 'Siaine Fisi' (Tonga), 'Kluai Dok Mai', 'Kluai Hom Thong' (Thailand), 'Bogoya' (Uganda), 'Chuoi Tieu Cao #2' (Vietnam)[1][2].

Local names of Gros Michel in the banana cultivar checklist.

History

'Gros Michel' entered the historical record in the 1830s when a French planter, Jean Pouyat, noticed the plant growing on the Caribbean island of Martinique[3]. Locally, it became known as the 'Martinique banana' or the 'Pouyat banana'. It spread through the Caribbean and beyond. By the 1890s, it was cultivated all along the Caribbean coast of Central America. By the turn of the 20th century Gros Michel made up the bulk of of the exports to the US. According to the historian John Soluri, the success of the Gros Michel mainly reflected the interests of traders, who liked its big bunch, bruise-resistant peel and ability to withstand the long journey from farm to market[3]

The first losses followed soon after Fusarium wilt was reported in Panama and Costa Rica in the 1890s (the strains that cause disease on Gros Michel would later become known as race 1). As the disease spread through Central America, aided by growers unwittingly using infected planting material, only the availability of vast areas of virgin land prevented an early collapse of the industry. The opening of new land to make up for the abandoned plantations (estimated at more than 40,000 ha[3]) allowed production to keep ahead of the disease. But as uninfected and accessible land became increasingly rare in the the mid-1950s, production costs in Central America soared.

Even though resistant cultivars had been identified as early as 1910, the export industry did not begin to replace the susceptible Gros Michel banana until the late 1950s[3]. The change was motivated by the entry of Ecuador as a major banana exporter in the 1950s[4]. To compete with the cheap Gros Michel from Ecuador, the infested soils of Central America were planted with resistant Cavendish cultivars. Gros Michel has not completely disappeared, however. It is still grown by smallholder farmers, in backyard gardens and mixed cropping systems.

Morphological characteristics

Curved rachis
Curved rachis

The long and bare rachis hangs vertically and is distinctively curved below the bunch. The fruit is long (18-23 cm) and straight for most of its length. The fruit apex is slightly tapered.

Host reaction to diseases and pests

'Gros Michel' is susceptible to race 1 strains of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense.

References

1. Jones, D.R. (ed.). 2000. Diseases of banana, Abacá and Enset. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, Oxon (GBR). 544p.
2. Ploetz, R.C., Kepler, A.K., Daniells, J.W. and Nelson, S.C. 2007. Banana and plantain: an overview with emphasis on Pacific island cultivars Musaceae (banana family). p27. In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Species profiles for Pacific Island agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources, Holualoa (USA).
3. Soluri, J. 2002. Accounting for Taste: Export Bananas, Mass Markets, and Panama Disease. Environmental History 7(3):386-404.
4. Stover, R.H. 1986. Disease Management Strategies and the Survival of the Banana Industry. Annual Review of Phytopathology, 24:83-91.

See also on this website

Local names for 'Gros Michel' in the cultivar checklist
Musapedia pages on cultivars:
Journey to Banana Land, a 1950 20-minute film showing how Gros Michel was grown, harvested, cleaned and shipped to the US