Linguistic research identified more than 1100 terms from different languages that relate to banana varieties. They also found four key derivations of the term for banana, each suggestive of a different dispersal trajectory.
While the new research may provide a basis on which to formulate a banana breeding strategy, Donohue believes we also need to encourage local diversity.
There are hundreds of varieties of bananas, from plantains to ladyfingers, and there are many more yet to be documented.
"Many parts of the world, like Indonesia, don't really know the sort of genetic diversity that's out there - there's never been a survey," said Donohue.
"Given the different kinds of climate we see, from New Guinea to South East Asia, there's probably a specialized variety, already being grown or present in the wild, that can hit that [disease resilient] niche quite well if we could only find it."
In the 1950s, a fungal disease, known as Panama disease, led to huge losses of 'Gros Michel,' then the biggest export and most widely consumed banana species.