A professor gone bananas!

Story by Annie Barbas
Photos courtesy of Dr. Greg Fonsah

As we guide our children toward academic success, we would have to look very hard to find a more intriguing example than Dr. Greg Fonsah. 

Originally from the former French colony of Cameroon, Dr. Fonsah was a local planting expert even as a young person. Thanks to his skill as a soccer/football player, Dr. Fonsah studied business and science as an undergraduate at Berea College. Moving on to Morehead State University, he ultimately received his Ph.D. in economics concurrently from the University of Kentucky and the University of Nigeria. 

Dr. Greg Fonsah in new banana research plot.

In the midst of the Ph.D. dissertation process, he was lured back to his native Africa by corporate fruit giant Del Monte. Originally hired as a manager, he soon rediscovered the agricultural roots of his childhood. His practical agricultural background melded with his academic training and curiosity. Linguistic ability, agricultural expertise, and business and economic acumen made his expertise in demand around the world. Ultimately he was lured from Hawaii to the UGA Tifton Campus as a fruit, vegetable, and pecan specialist. And now he has gone bananas!  

Dr. Fonsah watering small banana offshoots in the UGA greenhouse.

Dr. Fonsah’s goal is to develop economically profitable and sustainable bananas to market in the U.S., thus keeping our dollars at home while providing an alternative crop for Florida farmers plagued by citrus greening. Fonsah’s research focuses on a move away from the typical ‘Cavendish’ (grocery store) banana to ethnic bananas with shorter production cycles. The ethnic bananas are smaller and tastier than the ‘Cavendish’, making them desirable for lunchboxes while also expanding consumer palates.  

A green banana bunch in Tifton test plot.

Dr. Fonsah’s research goals also go beyond the culinary aspects of bananas. Additional research is focusing on the use of bananas as an alternate fuel and bananas for paper production. The goal is to use every part of the product in an economically feasible fashion. Already, 1,000 acres of bananas have been planted in Florida to augment the struggling citrus industry.




For the homeowner who wishes to add an easy-to-grow fruit to the landscape, bananas are a great option.
• Plant on 8-foot centers.
• Keep well watered/well drained.
• When fertilizing, use a balanced, such as 10/10/10, formulation with micronutrients.
• Mulch to conserve water.
• Remove all suckers but one each year so all strength goes to the “mother” plant.
• Only the female blossom makes fruit. 
• The male blossom is edible and can be found in Asian markets.
• Few pests are attracted to bananas outside commercial plantings.

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