The first ISHS-ProMusa symposium ended with Richard Markham, then chair of the ISHS Section on Banana and Plantain, reminding participants “of our limited success over the past 20 years in providing workable solutions to the major crop protection problems of farmers”. We all know what these are: leaf spot diseases, Fusarium wilt, bacterial wilts, viruses, nematodes and weevils. This fourth symposium, hosted by Embrapa, similarly provided sobering accounts of the challenges scientists still face in addressing these problems. And rightly so. We should not underestimate the scale of the task at hand. But symposia also play a non-negligible role in lifting our spirits by reminding us that the steady progress of science is also punctuated by the occasional leap.