Gros Michel entered the banana history in the 1830s and by the 1890s it was cultivated all along the Caribbean coast of Central America. Gros Michel was the main export to the US. by the turn of the 20th century and was liked by exporters because it didn’t require special care to grow and ship.
In the late 1950’s it was replaced by the Cavendish type banana Grand Nain also known as the Chiquita Brand Banana. This replacement was due to Fusarium Wilt which nearly destroyed the banana industry. The cavendish banana was resistant to Fusarium Wilt or what is also called Panama Disease.
The first losses to Panama Disease were in Panama and Costa Rica in the 1890s. Over the next 60 years the disease spread throughout plantations because growers were using infected planting material to produce new crops.
New land opening up allowed production to keep ahead of the disease but as uninfected and accessible land became increasingly rare in the the mid-1950s, production costs in Central America soared.
Resistant cultivars were known of as early as 1910 but the export industry didn’t begin to replace the susceptible Gros Michel banana until the late 1950s. The change to the disease resistant Cavendish banana was motivated by the entry of Ecuador as a new and larger banana exporter in the 1950s. To compete with the cheap Gros Michel from Ecuador, the export industry started planting the resistant Cavendish cultivars in the disease infested soils of Central America. This is where the Chiquita Brand Banana came into play.
Gros Michel never disappeared completely, it just went to the way side but was saved in plants banks around the world and is still grown by backyard farmers and small plantations around the world.
Take a trip back in time to BananaLand in this video from 1951: