What's more, bananas have three copies of each chromosome, just like other seedless plants. And for many genes, all three copies are different.
The variety of banana used in the new study had just two of each chromosome, making it simpler than the Cavendish. But by finally deciphering its sequence, scientists will be able to move on to our beloved breakfast fruit and compare the differences.
Knowing the genetic sequence of bananas is a major step toward isolating key genes that will eventually lead to a better banana, Chan said. Future varieties may be able to resist both droughts and diseases, while still tasting good and traveling well.
Those developments are especially important in the developing world, where starchy varieties of bananas supply substantial amounts of calories to the human diet, especially in Uganda and other East African countries. There, Chan said, losing the banana crop would be a humanitarian disaster.
"This is a nice example of how these projects can greatly benefit crops that we might not think about as being important in the developed world but are really, really important for food security and human welfare in developing countries," Chan said.