If you are looking for a high demand and more profitable crop to be involved in, then banana should be in your list. Current supply only meets 47% of the demand, meaning there is a big opportunity in the industry to fill the gap. In Kenya the crop is largely grown by small scale farmers.
As there is continuous availability of harvestable bunches all year round and coupled with it being a staple food for rural as well as urban population, it is an important source of income. The fruit is highly nutritious as it is a rich source of carbohydrate, fiber, minerals and vitamins.
Though there is strong demand for banana its main constraint is inadequate production and marketing. Demand for banana is driven by unmet supply standing at 53%, increasing government policy interest, inadequate commercial value addition and processing, large and rapidly growing market, projected large increases in consumption and high profitability in production and trading.
Banana is a tropical crop growing best between equator and latitude 20o N and 20oS, altitude of 0-1800 metres above sea level, evenly distributed rainfall of at least 1000mm per year and optimum temperature of 270C.
The soil should be deep, well-drained loam with high fertility and organic matter content. It should have pH level between 5.8-6.5.
There are two types of banana: dessert banana and cooking banana, both of which are grown and are available in local markets. There are eight major varieties planted in Kenya:
Planting material : Conventional suckers
Main sources of suckers are:
It is recommended to use narrow leaved sword suckers.
Land selection and preparation
The following should be considered for site selection:
Availability of water for irrigation,
The site should not be prone to water logging or salinity and should be sheltered from prevailing winds.
The land should be harrowed to produce a fine tilth and reduce compaction. If land is sloping, soil conservation measures should be applied- bench terraces should be constructed to cater for single or double row of bananas.
Planting holes should be 60cm by 60cm by 60cm while for dry areas bigger holes of 90cm by 90cm by 90 cm are preferred. For tissue culture plants, deeper holes are recommended because the rhizomes are often pushed above the soil level early due to the rapid and early production of suckers.
Planting should coincide with the onset of rainfall
Planting should coincide with the onset of rainfall. Spacing varies with cultivars, though for tall cultivars 4m by 4m (625 plants/ha), medium sized 3m by 3m (1110 plants/ha) and short cultivars 3m by 2m (1667 plants/ha).
Top soil from 30cm should be mixed with 2 debes of well decomposed manure and 200g of DAP. Half of the mixture should then be returned to the hole to a depth of 30cm after which the planting material (cultivar) is placed into the hole and the rest of the soil worked in.
Fertilizer should be applied twice a year during the rainy seasons; at least 2 debes of manure mixed with 200g of CAN.
Apply mulching to conserve moisture, reduce weed growth, soil erosion, soil compaction and increase soil fertility. This can be either dead organic mulch (banana leaves and pseudostems, grass or coffee husks) or living mulch (legume cover crop)
Dead or dried leaves hanging down the pseudostem should be removed. The plant should be propped up with wooden poles to avoid falling of stems due to heavy bunches.
A banana crop will flower 8-12 months after planting depending on climate and management and will mature 3-4 months after flowering. Fruits should be harvested when they are three-quarter round and appear light and shiny.
With good management practice, an average yield of 40tons/ha can be attained.
Banana fruits are ripened when either packed in crates or in a ripening chamber. In a ripening chamber an ethylene source such as passion fruit, avocado or papaya is placed in the chamber sump and closed for 24-30 hours and opened to release carbon dioxide and the peel color to break.
Value Addition Products
The following products can be made from bananas: banana powder for bread and ice-cream manufacture, dried banana figs, banana starch, banana juice and canned banana slices
Diseases Affecting Banana
Cigar End Rot:
Caused by fungus called Verticillium theobromae, the disease presents symptoms such as dry rot with ashy appearance at the fruit tips. The pulp undergoes a dry rot and becomes fibrous.
The fungus syprophytically invades dried flower parts and penetrates into the fruit skin thus producing a dry rot. High humidity and overcrowding favors its spread.
It is controlled by removing all dried and dead floral parts from fruit tips. The flower parts should be removed 8-11 days after fruit bunch emerge.
Panama Disease (Fusarium Wilt):
This fungal disease mainly fusarium oxysporum causes yellowing of older leaves, collapse of leaves while still green at the junction of the petiole with the pseudostem and death of emerging unfurled heart leaf. It also causes vascular discoloration but shows no symptoms on fruits and young suckers. A diseased plant fails to [produce normal fruit and usually die before the fruit stalk is fully developed.
As the fungus is soil borne, it survives in banana debris while causing infection through the fine roots and spreads by contaminated rhizomes and young plants.
Control is achieved by planting resistant plants and by removing affected plants from planting area. Resistant varieties include: matoke, kisigame and mutahato.
Pests Affecting Banana
Four major types of nematodes have been identified to affect banana, they include: lesion nematodes, burrowing nematodes, root-knot nematodes and spiral nematodes.
Symptoms of infestation include: yellowing of leaves, stunted growth, halted development of rhizomes and toppling of a mature banana plant. They spread through irrigation water and through planting materials like suckers and corms.
Control of nematode infestation can be done by soil sanitization by using chemical pesticides like nematicide or steam and using clean planting materials which are free of eggs and nematodes
Banana Weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus)
The larva feed on rhizomes and pseudostem causing tremendous damages. The destroyed rhizomes are not able to transport nutrients. Symptoms of infestation include: yellowing of leaves and death of plants.
Control of weevil infestation is done by using clean suckers and corms, deep planting to prevent weevils from laying eggs on the corm and by trapping adult weevils by placing peaces of freshly cut pseudostems on the ground
Banana Silvering Thrips (Hercinothrip bicinctusi)
The nymphs feed on banana fruits producing silvery patches which later turn brown and are covered with black dots of excrement. Heavy infestation causes the fruit skin to crack longitudinally hence allowing entry of bacterial or fungal infection leading to fruit rot.
Control is achieved by use of chemical pesticides such as Carbaryl dichlorvos or fenthion.