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How to grow bananas

September 03, 2007

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BANANA belongs to the genus Musa of the monocot family Musaceae. The fruit is indigenous to the warm, moist regions of tropical Asia -- Bangladesh, India, Burma, Thailand and Indo-China. Composition of edible portion of the fruit is 74.8 per cent water, 1.2 per cent protein, 0.2 per cent fat, 0.84 per cent ash, 0.6 per cent fibre, 19.2 per cent sugar as invert and 0.39 per cent malic acid. Banana has 445 calories per pound.

Experimental cultivation of banana was started in the country after independence, and soon after its success in Sindh, the fruit emerged as an important fruit crop. It is now grown on 30,000 hectares in Sindh which is 91 per cent of total banana area of the country. Sindh produces 135,000 tones of the fruit annually which is 82 per cent of the total produce. Lower Sindh is more suitable for the cultivation of banana and it is mostly cultivated in Hyderabad, Mirpur Khas, Badin, Thatta, Nawabshah, Sanghar, Noushero Feroze and Khairpur districts of Sindh. It is also grown on a small area in some parts of NWFP and Punjab.

Suitable Climate: Banana is a typical tropical fruit which is grown in the frost-free, humid and hot regions of the world. Profitable banana cultivation is possible within temperature range of 27-29 °C. Average annual rainfall 35-40 inches is most favourable for its production.

Selection and preparation of land: For banana cultivation deep and fertile soil having adequate humus, high water holding capacity and good drainage is suitable. Loamy soils of at least 50cm deep and well drained up to 4-5 ft are best suited for growing banana. Soil having 1.5 to 2.0 organic matters is considered the best for its cultivation.

The selected field is ploughed 1-2 times with chisel plough and 2-3 times with disc harrow (gobal). After leveling, the field is prepared with cultivator and planker.

Cultivars: The important cultivars grown in the country are Basarai, Sonkel, Safri, Chini Champa and William Hybrid. Basarai is the most successful in all these cultivars due to its dwarf height, large and thick fruits and more bunch weight. Sowing of one cultivar of banana is common practice in Sindh.

Sowing time: Banana is sown two-times in a year, in spring i.e. February and March and in autumn i.e. August and September. The fruit planted in February/March makes better growth and gives 30-35 per cent higher yields than those planted in August/September. Spring crop start flowering in January/February of next year and its fruits grow better. Suckers sown in August/September start flowering in July/August of next year and have adverse effect on growth, flower bud differentiation and fruit development due to cool temperature.

Planting materials: Propagation of banana is vegetative through suckers. Once the plant attains maturity, the suckers are produced from auxiliary buds of the underground rhizome.

Well developed and disease-free corms are separated from the mother plant. The top portion of the pseudostem of the suckers is given a slant cut leaving six to nine inches pseudostem over the corm. All old roots of the rhizome should also be trimmed. The plating materials can be stored in a cool dry place under shade of a tree for a week. The suckers should be dipped in 0.1 per cent copper oxychloride at the rate of one gramme in one liter solution for five minutes to produce disease-free and disease-resistance crop.

Method of sowing method: Tall cultivars are given wider spacing than the dwarf ones. Row to row and plant to plant spacing of 8 x 7 ft corresponding to a plant population of 777 per acre is preferred to attain more per acre yield and good quality fruit. A pit size of 60 x 60 x 60 cm is recommended for planting banana suckers. The soil of pit should be exposed to air and sunlight to avoid soil born disease.

The practice of sowing suckers very next day of pit digging is common among farmers. Most of suckers die before sprouting due to this practice. Before planting suckers, fill the pit with FYM having equal proportion of upper one foot pit soil and silt and then irrigate these pits. After 15-20 days FYM will decompose and become part of soil, then again make the pit according to the size of suckers. Give 20-25 gram urea, 40-50 gram DAP and 40-50 gram SOP in each pit and cover it with slight soil layer to avoid direct contact of roots with fertiliser. Banana suckers should not be planted either too deep or too shallow.

The suckers must be planted in the centre of the pit in such a way that the corm and another two inches of the pseudostem over it should submerge in soil.

The banana suckers strikes roots within 10-15 days after planting. Even after 15 days if sucker does not sprout, it means it has died. In spite of all precautions taken, some suckers fail to sprout. This may be due to defective planting or defective plant material or defective irrigation

Efficient Use of nutrients: Balanced and judicious use of fertiliser is necessary to improve soil fertility and sustainability in banana production. It is recommended that fertiliser should be applied after soil analysis. Soil and water analysis facility is provided by FFC through its Farm Advisory Centres working in whole Pakistan.

Fertilizer use efficiency can be increased by applying fertilisers after hoeing. The efficiency of DAP can be enhanced by mixing it with FYM. Application of 10 kg zinc sulphate (33 per cent) per acre at the time of planting and after every four month is recommended. For boron deficiency, three kg boron (11 per cent) per acre at the time of planting for one year is recommended.

Irrigation scheduling: Proper irrigation is a factor added toward the good yields of banana. Banana is a mesophyte and it requires a huge amount of water in the root zone because of the large foliage area, moisture content of the pseudostem and transpiration losses. The per day water consumption varies from 4.81 to 6.11 mm.

Weeds control: Weeds compete with banana crop for nutrients and moisture. Its growth in fields reduces the yield by way of reduction of banana bunch weight. Frequent light hoeing is done during early stages of banana growth to protect the crop from weeds. Weeds can also be controlled by weedicide during early stages of crop.

Insect pests and diseases management: Banana crop is attacked by number of insect pests and diseases. It is much more vulnerable to aphid, bunchy top viral disease and nematodes.

Aphid: Aphid is the most harmful bunchy top viral disease, as it is the vector of the virus causing the disease. Nymphs and adults suck sap from tender leaves and transmit bunchy top disease. The aphid can be controlled with the help of chemicals and insecticides.

Bunchy top viral disease: First time, bunchy top viral disease in Pakistan was seen in Thatta and up to last of 1992 this disease had destroyed thousand of acres of banana. Aphid becomes a cause of spread this disease. Its symptoms are dark green streaks and stunting of plant. Symptoms appear at stage of growth associated with occurrence of prominent dark green streaks on petioles and along leaf veins.

The disease can be controlled by adoption of strict quarantine measures. The diseased plants along with rhizomes should be destroyed as soon as they are detected. Planting materials should not be collected from places affected by this disease. The aphid should be controlled to check spread of the disease by spraying with an effective insecticide.

Nematodes: Nematodes are now recognised as an important soil borne pathogens causing decline in banana yield. Larvae are found inside roots in the cortical parenchyma where they feed on the cytoplasm of nearby cells destroying them and forming root cavities producing characteristic reddish brown lesions throughout the cortex. The root system is reduced to few short stubs and affected plants get "toppled". Nematodes can be managed by rotations involving turmeric, sugarcane and cotton.

Harvesting and ripening: Banana crop is harvested before complete ripening depending upon the distance of market (3/4 full maturity for distant markets, while full maturity for local market). The banana bunches are carefully cut with sharp knives. Banana is not usually allowed to ripen on the plant as it takes long time. Moreover, the fruit peel splits, fruit ripens unevenly, fails to develop good colour and aroma and hence the marketable quality deteriorates. Therefore, banana needs to be ripened artificially. Ripening is done by keeping banana bunches in wooden crates or boxes for 4-6 days in summer and 8-10 days in winter.

Storage: Banana can be stored at a temperature slightly above 55 °F (13 °C) and a relative humidity of 85 to 95 per cent for about three weeks, and is ripened in a week or two at 62-70 °F (16.5-21 °C). Banana fruit blackens at lower temperatures and should not be placed in a refrigerator. Keeping the fruit in relatively high concentration of CO2 and low concentration of O2 can prolong storage life. A double coating of 12 per cent wax emulsion prolongs the storage life of banana by 10-12 days at 58 °F (14.5 °C).