Scientists have unpeeled the genetic code of the banana to reveal information that may improve future crops.
Bananas, first domesticated some 7,000 years ago in south-east Asia, are an important staple food and major source of income in many countries.
Today they are increasingly threatened by pests and diseases such as black leaf streak and Panama fungus.
Scientists led by Dr Angelique D'Hont, from the CIRAD agricultural research institute in Montpellier, France, sequenced the genome of a major banana strain called Musa acuminate.
They wrote in the journal Nature: "The reference Musa genome sequence represents a major advance in the quest to unravel the complex genetic of this vital crop, whose breeding is particularly challenging.
"Having access to the entire Musa gene repertoire is a key to identifying genes responsible for important agronomic characters such as fruit quality and pest resistance."
Up to 50 pesticide treatments a year are needed to protect large banana plantations from black leaf streak disease, said the scientists.
Devastating outbreaks of a new strain of Panama disease fungus were also spreading in Asia.
Clues to defending the banana from disease were found in the genome, as well as genes vital to the ripening process.
The researchers added: "The Musa genome sequence is... an important advance towards securing food supplies from new generations of Musa crops and provides an invaluable stepping-stone for plant gene and genome evolution studies."