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Banana Production Kit: Banana Field Planting and Cultural Management Part 3

Fertilizer Application for Banana
A balanced use of both organic and inorganic fertilizers will give you the best guarantee for sustainable crop and soil management.
  • Apply fertilizer in a ring 30 to 60 cm from stem or spread evenly.
  • On slopes, fertilizer must be dug lightly into the soil surface on the uphill side of plant.
  • Always make sure that the soil is adequately moist during fertilization.
  • Irrigate the field through sprinkler irrigation after fertilization.
Recommended Fertilization Program for Banana
  • Apply 0.25 kg urea + 0.25 kg muriate of potash per mat every 3 months
  • Nitrogen fertilizer may be applied after heavy leaching rain in the form of 90 g urea or 125 g ammonium nitrate
  • Apply 4 treatments at 6-week intervals of 0.7 kg of mixture N:P:K 10:16:16 per mat, (equivalent to 0.25 kg N, 0.04 kg P, and 0.41 kg K)
  • If pH is below 5.0, lime should be spread at 2.5 t/ha (250 g/m2)
  • If soil is low in Magnesium, dolomite should be used at 2.5 t/ha (250 g/m2)
  • For quick response to magnesium deficiency, a combined foliar application of 0.5% Zinc sulfate (ZnSO4), 0.2% ferrus sulfate (FeSO4) , 0.2% copper sulfate (CuSO4)  and 0.1% (H3BO3)  must be applied.
Mulching is a long established horticultural practice that is very beneficial for bananas. It is one of the best things a farmer can do for his plants. The benefits of mulching include:
  • conserves moisture
  • suppresses weed growth
  • regulates plant microclimate
  • maintains soil temperature
  • adds organic matter and nutrients to the soil
  • improves physical and biochemical soil properties
  • reduces erosion on slopes
Two types of mulches: 
Organic mulch
These include paddy straw, compost, sawdust, sugarcane trash, dried banana leaves and sheaths, cut grasses, wood chips, pine needles, hardwood and softwood bark, cocoa hulls, leaves, compost mixes and a variety of other products usually derived from plants. 

Inorganic mulch
These include plastic, various types of stone, lava rock, pulverized rubber, geotextile fabrics and other non-plant materials.
  • Spread mulches on freshly cultivated, weed-free soil before plants are large enough to interfere.
  • The recommended mulching depth for well-drained sites is 5 to 10 cm. If there are drainage problems, a thinner layer should be used. Avoid excess mulching (10 to 15 cm) as this leads to excess moisture in the root zone which can stress the plant and cause root rot.
  • Avoid placing mulch against tree trunks since this can stress stem tissues and may lead to insect and disease problems or create habitat for rodents.
  • Place mulch out to the tree’s drip line or beyond.
  • Add more mulch during the season if you are working with organic materials.
  • Some mulches can affect soil pH and its continued use can lead to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities.
  • If organic mulch is used, it should be well aerated and preferably composted.
A banana plant may produce around five to ten suckers, however, it is recommended to allow only one or two suckers to develop to prevent competition for soil nutrients. This technique is called desuckering or selecting the most vigorous sucker in the best location with respect to adjacent mats and eliminating the undesirable suckers.

How to Select Suckers
  • Consider the following factors in selecting suckers:
  • Sword suckers must be selected.
  • Select suckers at a given time and a common height to maintain uniformity in the plantation.
  • Select suckers along the row or on the uphill side.
Removing Undesirable Suckers
  • Cut off sucker with a knife at ground level or just below, gouge out centre and pour in ½ teaspoon kerosene to prevent regrowth; or
  • Dig up sucker and cut it off from its point of attachment to mother plant.
Sanitation/Leaf Pruning/Thrashing
These should be done to prevent pests and diseases, reduce shading and encourage faster sucker development:
  • Remove old and diseased leaves and other debris.
  • Cut leaves that hang down around the pseudostem and place them along the middle of plant rows.
Plant and Bunch Support
The stem of the banana plant contains no wooden tissue, thus, the plants tend to break, bend or topple over usually when carrying a heavy bunch. Thus, the need for support.

There are two kinds of props: the single and double props. However, it is recommended to use double props since the use of a single prop may lead to the splitting of the pseudostem where it is inserted.

In double props, two wooden or bamboo poles are joined near the top by wire. The elongated “x” that is formed in this way is placed under the stalk of the bunch.

Synthetic twine (polypropylene) is tied between two plants leaning in opposite directions, from the top of one plant to the base of another or from one plant  to two adjacent plants. This is more economical than wooden props and often used in a double-row planting system.

Bunch Covering/Bagging
This practice has two functions:
  • to protect fruit from pest damage and injuries.
  • to hasten fruit filling and maturity
Guide in Bunch Covering/Bagging
  • Cover the bunch soon after emergence and when the fingers are curved upwards.
  • Attach the bags at the top of the bunch and leave the bottom open like a sleeve.
  • Perforate the bags (2 cm holes) to aerate the fruits and to regulate relative humidity and temperature inside the bags.
  • In bagging, use a 20 to 50 m plastic film, usually blue in color, often with a silver sided strip to reflect sunlight and prevent sunburn; alternatively, a sheath of newspaper may be used.
Advantages of Intercropping
  • weed growth control
  • increases soil fertility
  • reduces soil erosion
  • augmentation of income
  • shade crop
All kinds of crops can be mixed with bananas:
  • legumes  (e.g. cowpea, soybean, beans and chili)
  • tuber crops (e.g. cassava, yam and beetroot)
  • spices (e.g. turmeric)
  • cotton and many more
Keep in mind that some crops are hosts to pests and diseases of banana and therefore not recommended to be intercropped with banana. These are:
· squash              ·   tomato
· bean                ·   abaca
· taro                 ·   bandera espaƱola
· gabi                ·   cucumber
· melons            ·   pepper
· watermelons    ·   ginger

These are alternative hosts for virus diseases or for the aphids that can transmit the virus diseases.

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