Original:Better Farming Series 18 Bananas 5
Description of the banana plant[edit source]
The banana plant is not a tree.
Apparent trunk[edit source]
It is a giant herbaceous plant with an apparent trunk that bends without breaking (see Booklet No. 2, page 10).
Underground stem and roots[edit source]
The banana has an underground stem with adventitious roots (see Booklet No. 1, page 25). It is full of food for the plant.
Alongside the main stem, it has other stems called suckers. These stems grow into banana plants.
The banana plant produces its fruit and dies.
Another sucker replaces it.
The banana plant has large leaves closely rolled up one over the other. Together they look like a trunk, but they form only an apparent trunk.
Inside it there is a bud which produces leaves.
After 7 or 8 months, when some 30 leaves have grown, the bud produces flowers.
The flowers of the banana plant form a large spike (see Booklet No. 3, page 6).
It turns downward to the soil and opens. It hears male and female flowers.
You can see:
- the female flowers pressed closely together in the shape of hands.
- a red bud at the end of the spike containing the male flowers; the male flowers die quickly and the bud slowly becomes smaller.
The banana plant yields fruits. These fruits are long in shape, with yellow, purple, red, blue or green skin.
The spike produces many bananas. The bananas on one spike are called a bunch.
On this bunch, the bananas are clustered in several hands.
The flesh of a banana is light in color, sweet and soft.
In the middle of the fruit you can see little black specks; these are the aborted ovules which would have produced seeds but commercial bananas are genetically unable to make seeds normally. In bananas that can make seeds, they are very hard and the size of a black pepper corn. (see Booklet No. 1, page 8).
In southern Ivory Coast, Poyo bananas are planted 2 metres apart in rows that are 2 metres apart. This gives about 2 500 banana plants to the hectare.
In Cameroon Gros Michel bananas are planted 2.85 metres apart in rows 2.85 metres apart.
In plantations where bananas are grown with other crops, bananas may be planted 5 metres apart in rows 5 metres apart.
Digging the planting holes[edit source]
One or two months before planting, make a hole at the places where the pieces of wood were stuck in the ground.
Make the holes 60 centimetres deep, 60 centimetres wide and 60 centimetres long.
Put the soil from the top on one side and the soil from the bottom on the other side.
Fill the holes with compost and manure (see Booklet No. 6. pages 5 - 7).
Bananas dislike wind. To shelter them, plant bamboos on the edges of the plantation.
These bamboos will also provide stakes for the bananas (see page 15).
Planting the suckers[edit source]
For planting, use suckers (see page 4). Take them from banana plants that are between 3 and 6 years old. These suckers should be between 50 centimetres and 1 metre high and broad at the base. Let them dry in the shade for 3 or 4 days before planting them.
Just before planting them, trim them at a point 50 centimetres from the base of the plant and dip them in water in which potassium permanganate is mixed.
Plant at the end of the dry season, so that roots grow before the rainy season begins, and the suckers do not rot.
Two months earlier, you made the planting holes. You separated the soil at the bottom from the soil at the top. You put compost in the holes.
At planting time, take the compost out of the holes. Put the soil from the top into the bottom of the hole, place the sucker in the earth. The base of the sucker is now 10 centimetres from the surface of the ground. Put compost round the young plant. Put the bottom soil on the ground surface.