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Commercial cultivation of Banana

By DR. Venkatramana Hegde, Hosagadde. Director, Shramajeevi Television Pvt. Ltd. Bengaluru  

Introduction

Horticulture is the priority sector now. Short duration crops like banana are occupying more area. Fertilizer responsive high yielding varieties are the first choice of our farmers. Banana is the only major fruit, which can be grown and marketed around the year. Banana stands second next to mango in the list of fruits in India. It is important in our menu also in the form of fresh fruit, chips, dry fruit, vegetable etc. Banana fiber for agriculture use, leaves as meal plates, green fodder for cattle are the other usages. It is a common natural shade for small areca plants. Banana species originates from Southeast Asia. Hence it is seen everywhere in this region.

Botany, soil & climate

Botanically banana is a monocot plant. Taxonomically the edible variety is Musa paradisica. The true stem of the plant is the rhizome in the soil. Upper part is the pseudostem made up of tight roll of leaf sheaths. It has a shallow root system. Female flowers are in the top hands of the bunch and sterile male flowers are at the end. Female flower develops in to the fruit without pollination. This process is called parthenocarpy. Banana fruit is useful to reduce the body weight and for easy motion. This is the rich source of nutrients and energy also. Stem sap can stop bleeding and diarrhea. Stem sap is useful for the production of permanent ink too. Banana pseudostem is used for the production of fiber, paper, manure, green fodder etc.

Banana is the only food crop giving highest production of 30 to 40 tons per acre. While the potato can give 10 tons and the rice 4 tons per acre. Banana is a sun loving plant. But some varieties tolerate shade. Hence they are seen in mixed plantations with coconut and areca nut palms. However, the high yielding varieties like Robusta and Cavendish need pure planting. Banana is a tropical plant growing very well in worm-humid climate. It is successful in the temperature range of 10 to 40 centigrade. It cannot grow below 10 centigrade. Banana performs well from sea level to an elevation of 1500 meters. It can grow in all types of soil. However, the well-drained red loamy soil is most suitable. It can perform well in medium black soil without water logging. Even then the pest and disease problem is more in black soil. One can take 5 healthy ratoon crops in red soil while 3 ratoon crops are possible in black soil. Banana can tolerate slightly saline soil and water EC up to 1.5.

Commercial varieties

Since banana is a native plant of this region hundreds of varieties are seen. Till today there are no successful hybrids because of some genetical problems and male sterility. Cavendish, Robusta and G-Naine are called hybrids in the farmers language. But they are not the hybrids. Instead they are the selections from the mutants. Many local varieties are popular in different regions for their specific usages. In malnad regions of Karnataka Karibale, Bargi, mitli are common in areca plantations. Shan bale and Kembale are the vegetable types. Wild banana is popular for shade and leaf purposes. Rajapuri in north Karnataka, Kadali and Nendra in south region, Boodu bale, Sugandhi etc. are the other popular varieties. But the Cavendish types and Yalakki are the only varieties widely accepted in commercial plantations.

 

Yalakki banana

Yalakki is a popular commercial banana variety of Karnataka. The stem and the leaf stalks are pure green. Fruits are small, firm and the shelf life is more. The plant is too tall and gets damaged by cyclonic wind. Soft leaves tear off with high velocity wind affecting the yield. Hence the support or stalking for this Yalakki banana plants is inevitable. But this variety tolerates shade. Gives good yield in the mixed plantations with coconut and areca nut. Tissue culture multiplication is not yet popular commercially in this variety. Hence the rhizome planting is in practice. Suckers production is more. Yalakki banana is highly susceptible for Panama wilt disease. Harvesting is little bit difficult because of the height. Average weight of the bunch is 10 to 12 kilograms under good management. This variety has better demand in big cities and fetches INR 20 to 30 per kilogram. Though the yield is one third of the Robusta variety it compensates with high price. Hence the income is the same. The big planters grow both the types in equal proportions. The bigger bunch of Yalakki variety gets more price per kilogram because of the bigger fruit size. Cost of production is same as that of Robusta varieties.

 

In the western ghat region Yalakki banana is seen in mixed plantation with areca nut palm. It is common to cover the bunches with a thick plastic to avoid monkeys. This also helps to get clean fruits without any fungal or insect damage spots. The bunch will mature fast. Since the plant is too high it is provided support with a synthetic fiber tied to the areca palm. Here the average bunch weight is 18 kilograms. Fruit size is excellent and gets the premium price.

 

Dwarf Cavendish

Banana has become a commercial crop with the introduction of Cavendish varieties. The popular varieties like Grand Naine, Robusta Tall, Williams etc. are the mutants of dwarf Cavendish. Dwarf Cavendish, the world popular dwarf variety was introduced in to India first. The maximum plant height is 6 feet which easily escapes wind damage. Hence saves the cost on stalking. Leaf width is more. This dwarf Cavendish variety likes dry weather. Gives out the bunch by 8th month and ready for harvest by 12th month. The hands are spaced closely. Fruit and the bunch are small and hence the total yield is less. Maximum average weight is 20 kilograms under good management. In winter choking of the bunch is a problem. The fruit remains greenish even after ripening which loses attraction. Also the fruits drop from the bunch, which troubles the retailers. Because of all these problems Dwarf Cavendish variety is unpopular now.

 

Robusta Tall

Robusta tall is the second introduction for commercial cultivation. It grows to a height of 8 to 9 feet. Though the stem is strong, needs stalking because of the heavy bunches. Flowers by 8th month and ready for harvest by 12th month. The bunch and the fruit size is more compared to G Naine. Matured fruit is round in shape without edges. Ripened fruit has attractive colour. Individual fruit weighs around 200 to 300 grams, which often troubles the retailer. The problem of fruit drop at ripening is seen to some extent. The average weight of the bunch is 35 to 40 kilograms under good management. One more similar variety called Williams is becoming popular which can give still bigger bunch and more yield. But the too big bunch and fruits are disliked by most of the retailers.

 

Grand Naine or G-Naine

This is the most popular variety Grand Naine from Israel. Plant height is medium and hence wind lodging is less. But still the plant with heavy bunch needs stalking. Fruits, bunch size and yield are medium. Ripened fruit colour is quite attractive and no problem of fruit drop from the bunch. Fruit has three edges. The shelf life of the ripened fruit is more compared to the other Cavendish types. This variety is the selection overcoming the problems of Robusta Tall and other varieties.

 

Propagation of banana

Conventionally banana propagation is by suckers or rhizomes. But in recent years the tissue culture plants have become popular. Suckers selected from pest and disease free plantations also give good yield. TC plants have no special capacity to give extra ordinary yield. Select sword suckers for planting. It originates from the bottom of the rhizome of the mother plant. This grows healthy and fruiting is fast. Water sucker is not suitable for planting. It grows slow and flowers late. Traditional farmers plant the suckers as it is, which is not correct. Instead, cut off the stem and plant only the rhizome part. It gives out strong and healthy sprout.

 

It is difficult to get healthy suckers of required variety in large numbers. If the sucker is separated from the cropping plant itself, it affects the yield. Also the pest and disease may enter from the wound. So take out the suckers only after the harvest of the crop. Panama Wilt and Bunchy Top diseases, rhizome weevil, nematodes spread with the affected sucker. Hence select the sucker if and only if the plantation is free from all these problems. It is very difficult and costly to get rid of these pest and diseases if once they enter the garden. Because of all these problems, now the tissue culture plants are popular. Most of the tissue culture laboratories multiply only Cavendish varieties. Because of the problem of variation in the characters, tissue culture multiplication in Yalakki and many other varieties are not yet successful or popular commercially. The rhizome costs around INR 5 to 10. Ready to plant tissue culture plant costs INR 15 to 18.

Tissue of a model plant of the required variety from a healthy plantation is collected for tissue culture multiplication. It is cultured in the high-tech laboratory to produce plants. This is a very sensitive and costly process. Generally, the TC plants are free from diseases. But if the infected tissue is selected by mistake, the whole stock of plant goes waste. Sometimes the variation in the TC plants affects the crop growth and the yield. Hence purchase the TC plants from well-known and responsible laboratories or hardening nurseries. Generally, TC plants are uniform in growth and harvest completes in short span. This is helpful for transportation and marketing. The bunches and the fruits also show the uniformity. If the rhizomes of same size are planted they also give uniform crop but not equal to the TC plants. TC plants can give 5 healthy ratoon crops while the sucker plantation can continue for two ratoon crops. However, the management is the same.

 

Miniature plants from TC labs are raised in net pots carefully. Polly tunnels are used to provide high temperature and humidity. After 25 to 30 days they are transferred to the poly bags filled with soil, sand and manure. Fertilizers, fungicides, insecticides and growth regulators are sprayed from time to time. This stage is called hardening. It needs closed shade house. Plants get ready for planting in 3 months. Healthy and sturdy plants are selected from the lots and sold to farmers for 15 to 18 rupees. It can be transported to any distance. A medium sized van accommodates around 5000 plants.

 

Planting banana

Plough the land in both the directions. Leave it for open sun for two months, which kills the pests and disease causing organisms. Growing Sun hemp and mixing with soil is also recommended. Put at least 10 tons of farm yard manure at the time of ploughing. Even in pits, mix the manure with the soil. Do not put directly to the plant base, which otherwise may cause fungal infection. Supply of organic manure is compulsory for the healthy growth of banana plants. It is better to open trench of 1 feet depth with MB plough in bigger plots than digging individual pits. In case of manual digging let the pit size be 1 cubic feet. Mix 5 ml of Chlorpyriphos, 3 grams of COC, 50 grams of DAP in one liter of water. Drench 200 ml of this solution to each pit. Put 10 grams of Phorate granules also. These are necessary for the control of soil borne pests and diseases.

 

Common spacing for banana is 6 x 6 feet or 7 x 5 feet. This accommodates around 1200 plants per acre. In high density planting, 4 x 4 feet or 5 x 5 feet spacing is followed. Recently the double row planting has become popular. The wider space between the pared rows is helpful for better light and air penetration, inter cultivation, fertilizer application, irrigation etc. Farmers experience says that the double row spacing of 4 x 4 feet in pair row plants and 8 feet between two pair rows is good. It accommodates around 1675 plants per acre. Few intensive farmers even follow the closest spacing of 7 x 4 x 3.5, 7 x 4 x 4 or 8 x 4 x 3 feet for G Naine. They plant around 2500 plants and get the highest yield of 60 tons per acre. Triangular alignment of plants in the rows is better. In high-density plantations the nutrient management schedule should be followed strictly.

 

Select the rhizomes for planting from a healthy plantation of first crop. This gives vigorous and healthy sprouts. It is better if it is of TC plants, which will have less pest and disease infestation. Grade the rhizome as big, medium and small based on the size. Plant them in separate rows and sections. Small rhizomes are also suitable for planting. But it must have at least 1 kilograms weight. If you plant all sizes in a mixture weak sprouts from small rhizomes will suffer and fail to grow in the shade. Remove all old roots on the rhizome with a thin layer of skin. Old roots carry the infection of diseases and nematodes. Mix 4 kilograms of DAP, 600 grams of Mancozeb, 500 ml of Chlorpyriphos in to 200 liters of cow dung slurry. Dip and take out the rhizomes in to the mixture. Smear 10 grams of Phorate granules on each rhizome. All these chemicals together will prevent rhizome weevil, stem borer, thrips, nematodes, termites and panama wilt disease. Dry these rhizomes under shade for one day and plant. Plant this rhizome in inverted position in warm climate. This helps to get stout and vigorous sprouts. Retain the sprouts of uniform size in all pits and remove the remaining ones. In the cold season do not go for inverted planting which may result in poor sprouting. In the case of tissue culture plants, planting is very easy. Simply cut off the poly bag and plant.

 

We can take up banana planting in all the seasons. This fruit has good demand throughout the year. But avoid the full crop in May-June. Otherwise the strong monsoon wind may destroy the heavy plants. It is better to have live wind breakers like Sesbenia, Gliricidia etc. around the plantation. This minimizes the uprooting of plants and tearing out of the leaves. Banana being a succulent plant needs assured irrigation. Hence avoid fully grown up crop in April-May months in water scarcity areas. The demand and the price of banana remain almost same in all the seasons with minor variations.

 

Nutrition to banana crop

Banana is a short duration plantation crop. Flower primordial initiates at 5th to 6th month stage in short duration varieties. Hence by that time, the absorption of necessary nutrients should complete. Otherwise it will affect the yield. So the slow releasing manures and fertilizers are not effective. Hence the organic manure is applied before planting itself. Fertilizer must be of water-soluble type. Finish the soil application of fertilizers by 7th month. Remaining doses, if any, are by foliar sprays. Roots spread in all directions up to 3 feet in the upper layer of soil. Put the fertilizers in a shallow ring 1 foot away from the plant base. Cover it again with soil. Maintain enough moisture to facilitate its absorption. Otherwise, dissolve the granules in water and drench. Giving water-soluble fertilizers through drip irrigation system is the best method.

Organic crop

It is difficult to adopt complete organic farming in heavy feeding- fast growing-high yielding crops and varieties. In fertile virgin soils and soil with heavy organic matter the organic cultivation may give good crop. Long duration local varieties are suitable for organic farming. Few farmers take ratoon crops without any fertilizers.

 

Nutrient requirement of banana is like this- Nitrogen-216 kilograms, Phosphorus- 130 kilograms, and potash-270 kilograms per acre. In other words, 1 kilograms of NPK and 200 grams of micronutrient per plant is necessary. To avoid confusion in various spacing, nutrients are calculated on per plant basis. In acidic soils of heavy rain fall areas use half kilograms of lime per plant. And here the rock phosphate is better for phosphorus supply. In alkaline soils Ammonium sulphate, Single super phosphate and DAP are recommended. Decide the type and amount of fertilizer depending on the soil test report. Nutrient requirement varies even with varieties. Hence the general recommendation is difficult in banana. Complete the fertilizer application in 7 months in monthly doses. Weekly installments are still better. This minimizes the wastage and gives better growth. Put the fertilizer in a ring 1 foot away from the plant base and cover with soil. If left uncovered evaporation loss will be more.

 

Fertilizer dosages

Now let us study the fertilizer recommendation for banana in acidic soils of heavy rainfall area. Dosage per plant is given. SSP means single super phosphate, MOP means muriate of potash. The dose is same for both sucker and TC plants. Let us study the different doses now.

At the time of planting-75 grams of ssp and 600 grams of rock phosphate.

30-days-50 grams of urea and 50 grams of MOP.

75-days-90 g of urea,50 g of DAP,75g of SSP and 85g of MOP.

110-days-115 grams of urea, 50 grams of DAP and 85 grams of MOP.

150-day stage- 100 grams of urea and 100 grams of MOP.

180-day stage- 90 grams of urea and 100 grams of MOP.

Flower emerging stage 100 grams of MOP.

Note that the phosphorus dose completes before 4th month. No nitrogen is given after flowering. Later on supply any nutrient by foliar spray if necessary. This recommendation is applicable both for Yalakki and Robusta varieties of banana.

 

Now let us go through the fertilizer dosages to be followed by dry region farmers.

15 days after planting- 50 grams of 19:19:19 complex fertilizer.

30-days- 100 g of 19:19:19, 50 g of zinc sulphate and 25 g of magnesium sulphate.

More doses of micro nutrients are given through foliar sprays against deficiencies.

45-day stage- 150 grams of 19:19:19 complex fertilizer.

75-day stage- 200 g of Ammonium Sulphate, 200 g of SSP and 100 g of MOP.

110-day - 200 g of Ammonium Sulphate, 200 g of SSP and 100 g of MOP.

150-day - 200 g of Ammonium Sulphate, 200 g of SSP and 100 g of MOP.

180-day stage give only 100 grams of MOP.

By this time, flower primordium initiates inside. Finish the soil application of nutrients at this stage. Spray a solution of 2 grams of Calcium nitrate and 1 gram of water soluble Boron in one liter of water to the newly emerged bunches. After 10 days spray a solution of 2 grams of Magnesium nitrate and one gram of Boron in one liter of water.

 

In another method equal quantities of DAP, Urea and MOP is mixed instead of complex fertilizers which saves the cost. The dosage and the schedule of application like this-

At the time of planting- 50 grams of DAP and 10 grams Phorate insecticide.

At sprouting stage- 50 grams of earlier mentioned mixture and 10 grams Phorate.

2nd and 3rd month stage- 300 grams of the same mixture and 10 grams of Phorate.

4-month stage- 100 grams of urea, 100 grams of MOP and 10 grams of Phorate.

5th, 6th and 7th month stage- 100 grams of urea and 100 grams of MOP.

This completes the soil application with 1 kilograms of fertilizer and 40grams of Phorate.

Micronutrient mixture is prepared by mixing 1 kilogram of Zinc sulphate, 2 kilograms of Magnesium sulphate, 2 kilograms of Ferrous sulphate and 50 grams of Copper sulphate powder. Give 100 grams of this mixture with last fertilizer dose and one more dose after one month. Later on give foliar sprays for any deficiency. Putting Phorate is to avoid rhizome weevil, stem borer and nematodes. It works for 6 months. Hence do not apply Phorate after 4 months of planting. Cut off the male flower navel at 4-inch length after all the finger hands complete. This saves the nutrient wastage. Mix 1 kilogram of 19:19:19 complex, 4 kilograms of Potassium nitrate and 200 ml of Spic Cytozyme in 200 liters of water. Spray this solution to the bunch twice in one-month interval. This produces the healthy and bigger fruits in the bunch.

 

Foliar spray of nutrients

Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR) Bengaluru, India has developed a micronutrient mixture called Banana Special to be used as foliar spray. There are few formulations of private companies as well in the market for the purpose. Recommendation of banana special is like this- Dissolve 125 grams of the same in 25 liters of water along with one shampoo sachet and lemon juice from one big lemon fruit. Use this solution for foliar spray at 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th month stage. Spray the same to the bunch also. This solution is compatible with any insecticide and fungicide. Take the foliar sprays between 6 am and 11 am or 4 pm and 6-30 pm for maximum absorption. Spray the liquid to the lower surface of the leaves where maximum numbers of stomata are situated. Adding shampoo improves the spreading of the spray liquid while the lemon juice corrects the pH of the solution. Hence these two are important. Soil application of micronutrient is not necessary if these foliar sprays are given. Remember, any chemical solution should not be kept for long time. Spray the fresh solutions only.

According to the researches the foliar sprays are effective than soil application. It takes 15 to 20 days for absorption from soil while it needs 1 or 2 days with foliar spray. The plant utilizes hardly 3 to 5 % of the nutrients applied to the soil while it is 30 to 40 % in foliar spray. Hence the foliar spray saves the cost with better yield. Even the ratoon crops will give same yield if the foliar sprays are followed. In acidic and alkaline soils, the fertilizer applied to the soil becomes unavailable for the plants. In such case the foliar spray is the most effective solution.

 

Micronutrient deficiency symptoms

 

Nitrogen: The leaves club together like an umbrella and loose green luster.

Phosphorus: Leaves turn dark green and may have dead tissues.

Potash: Leaves turn yellow and the tips dry. In next stage the entire leaf dries up and mid rib bends down. Pseudostem tissue decays and makes space for the entry of the stem borer.

Calcium: The suckers dry up even though the main plant is healthy.

Magnesium: Leaf edge will have a yellow strip. In extreme deficiency the chlorophyll will be missing. Plant shows the scars of dead tissue. Pseudostem splits open.

Sulphur: The upper surface of the leaves shows silver shining.

Zinc: The plants show yellowing.

Boron: The plants show a typical yellowing with swollen leaf veins. Folded young leaf gets twisted.

 

Foliar sprays of concerned micronutrient can correct all these deficiency symptoms.

Management of the plantation

Irrigation

Farmers having good water source go for flooding for banana. This is not a good practice. Panama wilt disease may spread apart from the wastage of water. Weeds also grow profusely. Hence the drip irrigation is the best method. It saves the water and enables fertigation. In high-density plantation mini and micro sprinklers have become popular. Each banana plant needs 15 to 30 liters of water every day.

 

Weed control

Weed problem is more in the early stage. Short duration intercrops will avoid the weeds with additional income. Dicot intercrops will improve fertility. Some farmers grow commercial crops like Patchouli, an aromatic plant. The weedicides like Alachlor, Diuron etc. are recommended. But hand weeding is safe. In paired row systems inter-cultivation with mini tillers is possible. Some farmers practice earthing up. This gives support to the plant base along with weed control.

Management of suckers

Suckers grow in large numbers around the plant base. If they are not controlled the wastage of nutrients affects the yield. Allow only one sword sucker to grow on the opposite side of the bunch when the flower bunch comes out. But in high-density plantations suckers are allowed only after the harvest of the crop. Otherwise the thick shade will not allow the sucker to grow healthy. Control the sucker from time to time. It is the major management work in banana plantations. Cut the sucker with sickle and damage the remaining base with a stick. Even few drops of Kerosene on the cut part can control the growth effectively.

 

Stalking

In case of tall varieties plant needs stalking to avoid breaking of stem. Bamboo support is common but costly. Most of these sticks are not useful for the second crop. The G Naine variety crop with wide spacing also needs stalking. In high-density planting synthetic packing tapes are tied to a peg on the opposite side of the bunch. This works out very cheap. In mixed plantations tying to other nearby tree with a fiber is sufficient.

 

Ratoon crops

Traditionally replanting of banana is not in practice. It continues its generation with suckers. But in commercial plantations having control on the plant population is necessary. 3 to 5 ratoon crops are possible in healthy and well-maintained plantations. Do not fell the mother plant after the harvest of the bunch. Chaff the leaves and retain the pseudostem. Reabsorption of nutrients takes place from the old stem, which helps for the growth of the sucker. Few farmers allow one sucker once in 3 to 4 months, to harvest 2 to 3 crops in a year. This is advisable only in wider spacing. Even then the average weight of the bunch drops. Hence one crop per year is the best practice.

 

Diseases of banana

Panama Wilt

The causal organism of this disease is a soil borne fungus Fusarium oxisporum. Pathogen enters the plant through the wounds on the roots. Leaves droop down with yellowing. The plants wilt slowly and die. Cross section of the stem shows black-brown rings. The pathogen develops in the stem and hinders the movement of water and nutrients. As a result, the plant wilts. High concentration of pathogen results in the splitting of the stem as well. The fingers of the bunch will not mature in the infected plant. Disease spreads to the suckers also. This is a major worldwide disease of banana. Pathogen lives in the soil for long time. Other related species of banana and grass roots are the alternate hosts of the fungus. Flooding will spread the disease to the entire garden. The infected rhizome will carry the disease to new plantations.

 

Panama wilt is the reason for the disappearance of Nanjanagoodu Rasabale a historical variety of Karnataka. Yalakki variety is more susceptible. The Cavendish varieties are resistant and will grow unaffected in the infected areas. Uproot the affected plants with rhizome and destroy it away from the garden. Treat the left over pit with lime and Sulphur to bring down pathogen population. Adding sugarcane trash and urea will help to reduce the fungus in the soil. Select the rhizome for planting from disease free plantations. Crop rotation with unrelated crop after two to three crops of banana is recommended. Put 1 gram of Carbendazim in 1 liter of water. Dip the rhizomes in the solution before planting. Mix 2 kilograms of Trichoderma with 100 kilograms of Neem cake and apply 1 to 2 kilograms to each plant. If the disease enters the garden drench 5 liters of 0.1 % Bavistin solution to each plant. Treat all the plants with the affected ones. Controlling this panama wilt is very difficult and costly if once it enters the garden. Hence take precaution to avoid this disease.

 

Sigatoka leaf spot

It is another major worldwide disease of banana. Cavendish types are more susceptible. Yellow-brown streaks appear on the leaves initially. Then it turns into blotches and spreads to the entire leaf surface. In severe case of infection, the leaf dries up. Normally the plant will not die. But the yield drops drastically. This fungus is common on older leaves. If it spreads to the upper younger leaves, will cause serious loss. The fingers of the affected plant will not mature. 23 to 25 centigrade temperature with frequent rain helps the multiplication of the fungal spores and spreading of the disease. Dry weather and high temperature will avoid this disease. Air spreads the fungal spores. Cut off the infected leaves and burn. Avoid excess irrigation and poor drainage. Keep the weeds under control. Spray the leaves with the solution of 1 gram Bavistin or 3 grams of COC in 1 liter of water. Bordeaux mixture of 1 % or Dithane Z-78 solution of 0.25 % is also effective. Latest report says that a solution of 0.5 ml Tilt in 1 liter of water is most effective.

 

Bunchy Top disease

This is a viral disease spread by an aphid. Short, small and brittle leaves club at one point like a broom or bunch. Affected plant will survive for many years. If the big plant gets the infection the bunch will not mature. The disease spreads and causes heavy loss if once it enters the garden. The virus cannot survive in the soil. It multiplies in the entire plant in the sap. It spreads with the sickle and other implements also. Canna, turmeric, ginger and cardamom are the alternate host plants of this virus. There is no medicine for the control of this bunchy top disease. No variety is resistant against this virus. Select the sucker from the disease free garden. Uproot and destroy the plant showing the disease symptoms immediately. Spray the insecticide for the control of the vector aphid. Avoid the alternate host plants. This bunchy top disease is also a major worldwide disease. Prevention is the only solution.

 

Insect pests of banana

Rhizome weevil

Rhizome weevil is a pest seen in banana plantations worldwide. All the varieties are susceptible for this insect. Insect larvae make tunnels in the rhizome. The root grubs and pathogenic fungi enter the plant through these holes. Affected plant shows stunted growth. Leaves show yellowing and the plant may dry up. The fingers and the bunch will not grow properly and lose market value. These adult weevils cannot fly for long distance and will not drill the rhizome. They hide under moist materials in the day time and are active during night hours. The female weevils lay eggs on the rhizomes at the soil level throughout the year. Life cycle of this insect is 3 months.

 

The weevils enter new gardens with rhizomes. Hence select the suckers from the weevil free plantation. Problem is severe in waterlogged gardens. Hence drain excess water. Destroy the adult weevils manually from their hideouts. Uproot the affected rhizomes and destroy at a distance. Dip the rhizomes in 0.1 % Chlorpyriphos solution before planting. Smear Phorate granules on the rhizomes. Put 10 grams of Phorate per plant for 4 months. All these measures together will control the rhizome weevil effectively.

Likewise, stem borer larvae burrow tunnels in the pseudostem. It results in breaking down of the stem. The control measures taken for the rhizome weevil will avoid this insect also.

 

Root knot Nematode

Nematode is another pest of banana. These are the minute worms seen in most of the soils. Nematodes spread with old roots of the suckers to the new gardens. The blotch and the knot on the roots are the symptoms of nematode infection. This microscopic worm scrapes the roots. Wound created will help the fungi to enter the root. Thus the root decays and dries up. This affects the nutrient up take. The nematode affected plant shows stunted growth and hence the small finger and bunch. Nematode problem intensifies in ratoon crops. Select nematode free suckers for planting. Dip the rhizome in worm water of 55 centigrade temperature for 20 to 25 minutes before planting. Remove all old roots on the rhizome. Use half kilogram of Neem cake per plant. Put recommended dose of Phorate. All these measures together will control the nematode.

 

Other problems

The direct sun on the bunch will create sunburn. The bunch loses market value. To avoid this, protect the bunch with dry leaves. For the monkey problem chasing them away is the only solution. Many farmers put nylon net all along the border of the garden to avoid monkey.

 

Harvest and Marketing

Bunch matures after 4 months of emergence. The leaves turn yellow. Edges on the fruit disappear. Fruit turns light green from dark green. Dry remnants of the flower at the end of the fruit drops by touching. Harvest at full maturity for local market. Over ripening splits the fruit. Harvest little early for long distance markets. Banana ripens fast at 32 to 35 centigrade temperature. On the other hand, it keeps for long time at 16 to 18 centigrade temperature.

 

Average bunch weight of Yalakki variety is 10 to 12 kilograms. The best average will be 15 kilograms. 15 to 18 tons per acre is the good yield. In case of Robusta and G Naine varieties the average weight of the bunch is 25 to 30 kilograms. The best average will be 35 kilograms. 30 to 35 tons per acre is the good yield. Some farmers achieve the highest yield of 60 tons per acre with 2500 plants in high-density planting.

 

Cost of production of the first crop is around INR 80,000 to 90,000 per acre. Ratoon crop needs INR 55,000 to 65,000 per acre. Absolutely there is no market problem for banana. Banana crop is profitable if G Naine variety gets INR 10 and Yalakki variety gets INR 20 per kilogram. Banana has tremendous market demand across the world around the year. This is best short term horticulture crop fetching attractive income for our farmers. Namaskar.