A University of Georgia economist has gone bananas for the potential to raise the yellow-skinned crop in his home state.
Greg Fonsah is conducting research into banana production at the university's Tifton campus with promising results, according to a news release.
Although some of colleagues are skeptical, Fonsah says the growing conditions are similar to his native Cameroon.
Fonsah and his colleagues started the research in Savannah in 2002 before starting a project in Tifton in 2009.
Fonsah brings with him experience from Del Monte and Aloha Farms before coming to the University of Georgia.
Americans consumed 10.4 pounds of bananas per person in 2010, and about 99 percent of those came from overseas.
“The United States spends $1.9 billion on bananas every year,” Fonsah said in the release. “That’s bananas and plantains. But there’s no reason all of that money has to go somewhere else.
He is looking at cold-hardy and short-cycled cultivars that will do well in the Georgia climate.
Fonosah and his group have about 65 different varieties in plots, ranging from varieties for cooking to those for ornamental use.
Americans consume mostly the Cavendish variety. But a short-cycle banana such as the Veinte Cohol can produce a bunch in about six months and can be harvested in the fall before the first frost. It produces a smaller, flatter and sweeter piece of fruit.
Fonsah says he's not looking to replace overseas production but instead offer local growers another niche crop.
His next step is to fine-tune harvesting and conduct consumer studies. At the same time, he continues to look for new varieties.