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Agro-knowledge Management Crop Series No.

Plantations Under Drip Fertigation

Dr. V. Praveen Rao

Agro-Knowledge Management

Agriculture Division
Netafim Ltd.,
161 Arlozorov St., Tel Aviv, Israel 64922

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any
form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the
prior written permission of the Publisher, Netafim Ltd., Israel

Disclaimer: The package of practices given in this crop-growing manual is based on limited experimental data
and need not be applicable to all banana-growing regions. Further bunch yield is a function of several
interactive factors viz., soil, crop, climate, biotic and abiotic stresses besides the management level of the
farmer. Therefore the company does not guarantee the production levels mentioned in the booklet, in every
location where the package is adopted.

1. Introduction 4
2. Distribution 4
3. Nutritional importance 6
4. Growth physiology 7
5. Climatic requirement 10
6. Soil requirement 12
7. Varieties 14
8. Site selection 15
9. Land preparation 15
10. Cropping systems 16
11. Planting material 17
12. Time of planting 21
13. Planting density 22
14. Planting configuration under drip 23
15. Drip fertigation system 25
16. Crop rotation 28
17. Weed control 28
18. Water management 29
19. Fertigation 39
20. Bunch propping 57
21. Denavelling 58
22. Bunch covers 58
23. Desuckering 61
24. Ratoon sucker selection 62
25. Leaf removal 63
26. Mulching 63
27. Wind breaks 65
28. Plant protection 65
29. Harvesting, Transporting, Handling, Ripening & Storage 67
30. Fruit yield 70
31. Economics 70
32. References 73


19.2.1 Quantitative fertigation: In quantitative method the fertilizer is mixed with irrigation water,
using a bypass fertilizer tank, according to the plant needs at different growth stages. This method
is widely used in fruit crops and medium to heavy soils, which have a considerable ability to store
water and nutrients applied. The factor controlled by the grower is the total amount of fertilizer,
rather than the exact concentration. Fertilizer concentration in water decreases gradually during the
irrigation session. Therefore the application is expressed in terms of kg/ha/day (or week). This
method requires the use of fertilizer tank (Fig. 29).

Fig.29. Quantitative fertigation by fertilizer tank

This method is cheap and simple and involves low maintenance costs. Both dry (water
soluble) and liquid fertilizers can be used. It enables high discharge rate. However, the fertilization
through bypass tank is not proportional and ability to automatically control the discharge rate is
rather limited. This system works on existing system pressure only, no additional power is required
for running the fertigation tank. The pre-determined water soluble fertilizer is placed in the tank,
throttle valve is opened sufficiently and water flow passing through the tank creates turbulent
motion inside the fertilizer tank. Allow fertigation for 2/3 of the irrigation period, this will leave the
system clear of fertilizer and prevents clogging problem if any.

19.2.2 Proportional fertigation: The most widely used equipment for proportional fertigation in
India is Netafim fertilizer injector (Fig. 30).

Fig.30. Proportional fertigation by fertilizer injector

As the water flows through the tapered venturi orifice, the increases velocity causes lower
pressure (partial vacuum), which draws fertilizer stock solution into the system. The main
advantage of this method is that the actual fertilizer concentration in the irrigation water can be set
to the optimum level. This is a special virtue for sandy and light soils and for soil less media. The
main disadvantages are very high head (pressure) loss and relatively low discharge rate. The
irrigation system should be operating at full capacity prior to injecting the fertilizer solution.

19.3 Nutrient functions and deficiency symptoms

19.3.1 Nitrogen
a) Nitrogen is a key element in banana nutrition, being almost universally in short supply,
even on the very fertile soils.
b) It is second only to potassium in terms of the amount needed for crop growth
c) N promotes growth and development and the relationship between growth (total dry
matter production) is a close one.
d) N deficiency leads to slow growth, pale green leaves, and the midribs, petioles and leaf
sheaths show a reddish-pink tinge (Fig. 31). Distance between successive leaves is

reduced giving the plant a rosette appearance. Roots are thin and suckers are fewer in

Fig.31. Banana Nitrogen deficiency symptoms (Source: E. Lahav & Y. Israeli)

e) Conversely, an over supply of N will produce large plants with dark green leaves, low
rigidity of pseudostem, delay in shooting of the bunch, bunches are smaller than usual
and do not fill out properly; sometimes the peduncle breaks of just inside the pseudostem
causing bunch loss; and reduced grade, poor keeping quality and decreased
f) Nitrogen deficiency symptoms are often observed under conditions of poor rooting and
weed competition.
g) The pale green colour of the blade and the inhibited growth are also associated with water
shortage and ill-drainage.

19.3.2 Phosphorus
a) The P requirement of banana is not large as compared with N and K
b) The most rapid phase of P uptake is in the small to large stage (2 5 months). After
bunching the uptake rate falls to about 20% of the rate in vegetative phase
c) It helps to produce a healthy rhizome and strong root system
d) It gives good anchorage and prevents lodging
e) It is favourable for flower setting and accelerated ripening

f) Phosphorus deficiency leads to poor growth, stunted plants and poor root development.
Older leaves develop a serrated marginal chlorosis in which purplish brown flecks develop
and eventually coalesce to produce a sawtooth necrosis. The affected leaves curl, the
petioles break easily. Younger leaves develop a bluish-green tinge.
g) Low Mg supply reduces root uptake and distribution of P
h) Excess of P leads to curved hands

19.3.3 Potassium
a) This is the most important element in banana nutrition.
b) A fully grown banana plant contains more K than all other minerals combined.
c) K uptake is greater during the first half of the vegetative growth phase and during bunch
d) A low K supply in the soil adversely effects translocation and utilization of all the other
mineral elements
e) Adequate K availability increases the number of hands per bunch and finger size,
increases resistance to diseases
f) K regulates plant water uptake through its effect on stomatal control.
g) K also increases the sugar/acid ratio because of increased sugars as well as reduced
acidity. Thus K supply has an effect on fruit quality, flavour, sweetness and keeping quality.

Fig.32. Banana Potassium deficiency symptoms (Source: E. Lahav)
h) K deficiency causes leaf fall, premature yellowing and banana yellows (Fig. 32).
Universal symptom of K deficiency is the appearance of orange-yellow chlorosis of the
oldest leaves and their subsequent rapid death. The life span of the leaf is significantly
reduced. The midrib curves so that the tip of the leaf points towards the base of the plant.
i) Other effects of K deficiency are choking, reduced leaf size, delay in flower initiation,
reduced fruit number/bunch and hand number/bunch and especially fruit size.
j) Fruit growth is restricted by low K supply in two ways. The translocation of carbon
compounds from the leaves to the fruit is reduced and, even when sugars reach the fruit
their conversion to starch is restricted. Thus, low K supply produces thin fruit and fragile
bunches, phenomena frequently observed in the field.
k) During sudden K shortages (K release rates of the soil do not match changes in seasonal
demand for K by the plant) the plant may bunch satisfactorily but the leaf system will
suddenly collapse as K is withdrawn from the leaves to supply the needs of the growing

19.3.4 Calcium
a) Calcium is very immobile element within the banana plant and therefore deficiency
symptoms are found on the youngest leaves.
b) The uptake of Ca follows the pattern of dry matter accumulation at least until bunch
c) Calcium uptake by the plant depends not only on Ca concentration in the soil but also on
the concentration of other elements, especially K and Mg.
d) Temporary shortage of Ca within the plant caused by a flush of rapid growth causes spike
leaf symptom in the field, in which the lamina on new leaves is deformed or almost absent
(Fig. 33).
e) In Ca deficient plants fruit quality is inferior and the skin splits when ripe.

19.3.5 Magnesium
a) Uptake of Mg is influenced more by Mg concentration around the roots than by rate of
plant growth. Uptake can be suppressed by high concentrations of Mn and K. Correct
balance of K and Mg is required in the soil solution to allow adequate uptake of both.

Fig.33. Banana Calcium deficiency symptoms (Source: E. Lahav, Y. Israeli & D.W. Turner)

b) Low Mg supply causes restricted growth and reduction in fruit dry matter.
c) Yield reduction caused by low Mg supply is proportional to reduced growth in other plant
parts, where as with low K supply bunch size is reduced more than other plant parts.
d) Deficiency symptoms on leaves include marginal yellowing (Fig. 34), changes in
phyllotaxy, purple mottling of petioles, and separation of leaf sheaths from the
e) Mg toxicity is associated with a condition known as deforestation blue.

Fig.34. Banana Magnesium and Zinc deficiency symptoms

(Source: E. Lahav, Y. Israeli & D.W. Turner)
19.3.6 Sulphur
a) Sulphur is needed for leaf and fruit growth.
b) The Most rapid uptake of S occurs from the sucker selection to flowering. After this, uptake
rate is reduced and S needed for fruit growth comes from the leaves and pseudostem.
c) Deficiency of S appears on young leaves, which become yellowish white. As deficiency
progresses, necrotic patches appear on leaf margins and slight thickening of the veins
occurs. Growth is stunted and the bunch is small or choked.
d) Sulphate concentrations below about 2 ppm and above 10 ppm in solution depress growth
and cause an increase in N concentration in the leaves.

19.3.7 Manganese
a) Manganese excess is thought to be a greater problem, than, manganese deficiency.
b) The characteristic feature of Mn deficiency are comb tooth chlorosis and the presence of
fungus Deightoniella torulosa in chlorotic areas
c) Poor fruit development is partly associated with the premature death of the leaves caused
by Deightoniella infection. Fruits on deficient plants are covered with black spots.
d) High Mn in the leaf will reduce green life of harvested fruit, thereby contributing to the
disorder known as mixed ripe.
e) High soil Mn can reduce uptake of Ca by nearly 30%, Mg by up to 40% and Zn by up to

19.3.8 Zinc
a) The most widely reported trace element deficiency of bananas is zinc.
b) Zn deficiency is common on naturally high pH soils, because Zn ions become fixed in the
cation exchange complex. At high pH of 8.7 yields can be severely reduced due to
reduced Zn availability.
c) The Zn requirement of bananas is very small (1.0 kg/ha/year)
d) Zn deficiency causes young leaves become smaller in size and more lanceolate in shape.
The emerging leaf has a high amount of anthocyanin pigmentation on its underside, which
often disappears as the leaf unfurls. Deficient unfurled leaves have alternating yellow and
green stripes. Oblong, brown necrotic patches develop in the yellow stripes (Fig. 34).

e) The leaves of Zn deficient young suckers are very thin, comprising a midrib and serrated
narrow lamina. Bunches developing on such plants have small twisted fingers with a
characteristic prominent light green tip.
f) Zn deficiencies are very prevalent in young in vitro plants, which have a rapid growth rate
but no mother plant or rhizome to act as nutrient reservoir.
g) Zn deficiency can be corrected with foliar sprays of 0.5% Zn SO 4

19.3.9 Iron
a) Iron deficiency is usually associated in banana plantations raised on calcareous soils or
soils with high water table, or when excess Mn is in the soil.
b) The total amount of Fe absorbed by a healthy plant is only about 1 g and 80% of this is
absorbed during the first half of the plants life.
c) The most common symptom of Fe deficiency which occurs on young leaves is a
yellow/white chlorosis of the entire leaf (Fig.35).

Fig.35. Banana Iron deficiency symptoms

(Source: E. Lahav, Y. Israeli & D.W. Turner)

d) Fe deficiency can be corrected with foliar sprays of 0.5% Fe SO 4 or iron chelate (Fe-
EDTA) form through the irrigation water @ 1.0 ppm.
e) High leaf Fe concentrations cause black, necrotic marginal scorch on older leaves.

19.3.10 Copper
a) Banana plants need copper in very small amounts.

b) Total Cu uptake is about 1% of Mn uptake.
c) Deficiency symptoms appear on all leaves. Leaves develop yellow bronze colour.
d) Severe Cu deficiency causes leaf midrib and main veins to bend backwards with the result
that the plant develops an umbrella shape.
e) Cu deficiency can be corrected with foliar sprays of 0.5% Cu SO 4

19.3.11 Boron
a) The rate of boron uptake in field-grown plants is constant throughout the life cycle, from
sucker to harvest, being about 40 mg/plant/month. Boron taken up after bunch emergence
is used for fruit growth.
b) Boron deficiency symptoms include reduced leaf area, curling and lamina deformation and
most characteristically, stripes perpendicular to the veins on the underneath of the lamina
(Fig. 36).

Fig.36. Banana Boron deficiency symptoms (Source: E. Lahav, Y. Israeli & D.W. Turner)

c) The new leaves may have an incomplete lamina, similar to S and Ca deficiency.
d) Excess B causes marginal paling and necrosis
e) Boron deficiency can be overcome by application of borax @ 12 kg/ha.
Symptoms are useful in diagnosing nutrient imbalance and these are summarized for all
nutrients in Table 7 (Lahav and Turner, 1989) and Table 8 (Ben Meir, 1979; Charpentier,
1965; Fergus, 1955; Oschatz, 1962; Stover, 1972).

Table 7. Summary of deficiency symptoms (Lahav and Turner, 1989)
Age of leaf Symptom on blades Additional symptoms Element
Uniform paleness Pink petioles N
All ages
Midrib curving (weeping, drooping) Cu
Whole leaf yellow-white Fe
Thickening of secondary veins S
Young Streaks across veins Leaves deformed (blade incomplete) B
Leaves Stripes along veins Reddish colour on lower side of Zn
Only youngest leaves
Marginal chlorosis Thickening veins. Ca
Necrosis from margins inward
Saw tooth marginal chlorosis Petiole breaking. P
Bluish-bronze colour of young leaves
Chlorosis in midblade; Chlorosis limit not clear. Mg
Midrib and margins remain green Pseudostem disintegrating.
Blade dirty yellow green Mn
Yellow-orange chlorosis Leaf bending. Quick leaf desiccation. K

Table 8. Summary of excess symptoms (Ben Meir, 1979; Charpentier &

Martin-Prevel, 1965; Fergus, 1955; Oschatz, 1962; Stover, 1972)
Symptoms on Description of symptoms Element
Petioles Blue
Irregular chlorosis followed by necrosis
Marginal chlorosis followed by necrosis Na, B
Marginal blackening followed by necrosis Fe, Mn
Chlorotic striping
Not filled
Fruit Not filled Cl
Weak bunch, widely spaced hands N
Roots Growth inhibited Cu

19.4 Nutrient uptake

Banana plants require large quantities of nutrients during both their vegetative growth and
fruit production. These nutrients are often only partly supplied by soil reserves. Bananas have high
demand for nitrogen and particularly potassium. The phosphorus requirement of the banana is not
large compared with N and K. Very large quantities of nutrients are removed by a high yielding
banana crop and these must be effectively replaced in order to maintain soil fertility and to sustain
the high production. Average amount of nutrients removed by a Cavendish banana plantation
having a plant population of 2000 plants/ha with followers and an average bunch weight of 25 kg
(roots not included) is shown in Fig. 37 (Lahav and Turner, 1989).

Fig.37. Nutrient uptake by Cavendish banana plantation (Lahav & Turner, 1989)

19.5 Fertilizer recommendations in different countries

Banana being a heavy feeder requires very large quantities of nutrients for growth and
yield, accounting for 20 to 30% of the total cost of the production. The fertilizer recommendations
for banana in different countries are given in Table 9 (Martin-Prevel, 1992).
Table 9. Fertilizer recommendations for banana in different countries
Nutrients (kg/ha/year)
N P2O5 K2O
South Africa 140 500 0 100 750 1600
Canary Island 500 600 200 300 700 1000
Egypt 380 500 55 300 950
Israel 400 90 200 1440
India 300 600 320 345 340 720
Taiwan 400 115 900
Australia 110 370 160 460 480 1560
Brazil 250 500 125 240 500 950
Costa Rica 300 450 0 160 600 750
Honduras 290 0 0
Jamaica 225 150 560
Carribban Islands 160 300 35 50 500
Source: Martin-Prevel, 1992

19.6 Interaction between nutrients

The interaction between nutrient ions and their contribution to the understanding of banana
plant nutrition is assuming significance. An antagonism occurs when an increasing supply of one-
ion results in a lowering of concentrations of other ions (Table 10). The reverse is called synergism.
Some field problems in banana plantations have been found to be associated with nutrient
Table 10. Effect of mineral deficiencies on the concentration
of other nutrients in banana leaves
Elemen Deficient Element
t N P K Ca Mg Mn Zn S
N +0 +0
P + + 0 + +
K + + +0 0
Ca + +0 +
Mg + + + + 0
Mn +
Cu + 0
Zn 0 0 0
Na 0
Cl +
+ increase; decrease; both changes observed; 0 no effect
Source: Lacoeuilhe & Martin-Prevel (1971); Lahav (1974); Marchal & Martin-Prevel
(1971); Martin-Prevel & Montgut (1966); Murray (1960); Turner (1979)

Finger drop, a post harvest problem of ripe banana bunches, has been associated with
N imbalance. In the tropics during hot, wet season and with low K supply, ammonium N
accumulates (Martin-Prevel and Montagut, 1966). The excess N delays bunch
emergence and produces bunches with widely spaced hands which are easily damaged
in transport. The fruit pedicles are fragile and when ripe, fruit fall from the bunch.
Mottling of the petiole, called blue has been associated with a low K/Mg ratio in the field
(Martin-Prevel and Montagut, 1966).
High K/Mg ratio causes a yellow pulp condition in the ripe fruit, while yield was
Increased K supply promotes the translocation of Mg towards fruits and storage tissues
(Mengal and Kirkby, 1979), whereas addition of K at constant Mg supply promotes
growth and decreases whole plant Mg concentration (Turner, 1979)

A synergistic relationship exists between Mg and P, since Mg was shown to act as a
phosphatic carrier
Many antagonisms and synergisms reported in bananas are presented in Table 10.

19.7 Critical nutrient concentrations

The use of plant/leaf analysis is gaining popularity among banana farmers owing to
establishment of infrastructure as an agro-service to farmers in several countries. Leaf analysis
may be considered a method, which evaluates the soil supply of available elements using the plant
itself as an extracting agent. A general representation of the relationship between leaf
concentration and banana yield is presented in Fig. 38.
Fig. 38 describes several situations, which may occur. Clockwise the following segments are

Zone of luxury consumption

(yield plateau)
Lower critical Upper critical
Plant growth or Production

level level

Zone of toxicity
or unbalance
Zone of deficiency
or adjustment

Curve in C
(effect of Steenjberg)

Leaf mineral concentration

Fig.38. Relationship between leaf concentration and banana bunch yield

(Malavolta, 1989)
(a) Curve in C Yield is increased but leaf level is reduced; this happens when the rate of dry
matter production is higher than the velocity of uptake or transport of the element into the
leaf tissue which causes its dilution

(b) Zone of deficiency or adjustment Only in this section is the relationship between leaf
level and growth or yield is observed, and very often there is a linear relationship between
increase in leaf concentration and yield;
(c) Lower critical level - Usually a narrow band below which yield is reduced due to a shortage
of the element
(d) Zone of luxury consumption It is wider in the case of macronutrients like K, and much
shorter in other cases such as that of B; leaf level increases whereas production remains
constant, there is therefore, a waste of fertility or fertilizer;
(e) Upper critical level A zone which separates the yield plateau from the toxicity zone;
(f) Zone of toxicity Leaf content increases even further and yield drops, either as
consequence of a toxic effect of the element, or as a result of unbalance among nutrients.
In the agricultural practice, the goal is not the maximum physical production but rather the
realization of the maximum economic yield (MEY). For this reason the concept of critical level or
lower critical level was redefined with the introduction of an economical component: it is the range
of an element in the leaf below which production is restricted and above which fertilizer application
is no longer economical. This means that above this physiological-economical critical level, both
yield and leaf content of the element could rise in response to the fertilization. The increase in
yield, however, does not pay the additional fertilizer and the cost of its transport and distribution.

Fig.39. Sampling procedure for banana leaves

The critical concentration below which a response can be expected varies with cultivar,
site, climate and sampling procedure. Hence, an international reference method (MEIR) was
suggested and proposed, wherein three organs are sampled viz., Lamina 3, Midrib 3 and Petiole 7
(Martin-Prevel, 1977) (Fig. 39) in either large suckers or after the first hand of male fruit can be
seen on the inflorescence.
Standards for the interpretation of leaf analysis data have been established, based partly
on experiments and partly on growing experience in a range of conditions (Table 11). These can be
used within the constraints of variety, climate and local edaphic conditions. They certainly do
provide a useful guide to the nutrition of a crop when considered along with other evidence such as
deficiency symptoms, soil conditions, soil analysis and previous fertilizer history.
Table 11. Tentative critical concentrations of nutrient elements in the dry matter for the
lamina 3, midrib 3 and petiole 7 at the fully grown sucker stage in Dwarf Cavendish
Element Lamina 3 Midrib 3 Petiole 7
N (%) 2.6 0.65 0.4
P (%) 0.2 0.08 0.07
K (%) 3.0 3.0 2.1
Ca (%) 0.5 0.5 0.5
Mg (%) 0.3 0.3 0.3
Na (%) 0.005 0.005 0.005
Cl (%) 0.6 0.65 0.70
S (%) 0.23 -- 0.35
Mn (ppm) 25.0 80.0 70.0
Fe (ppm) 80.0 50.0 30.0
Zn (ppm) 18.0 12.0 8.0
B (ppm) 11.0 10.0 8.0
Cu (ppm) 9.0 7.0 5.0
Mo (ppm) 1.5 3.2 -- --
Source Hewitt (1955); Lahav (1970) Lahav (1970); Freiberg (1966)
Marchal and Martin-Prevel (1971) Langenegger & Plessis Lahav (1970)
Marchal (1972); Murrey (1977) Lahav (1977)

19.8 Fertigation schedule

Fertigation schedule is a function of several parameters as shown in Fig. 40.
Recommended fertigation programme based on parameters given in Fig. 39 for banana
using water soluble fertilizers is given in Table 12 and 13.

Fig.40. Factors affecting fertigation programme
Table 12. Fertigation schedule for banana
Recommended dose Plant population/ha FYM N P2O5 K2O
Per plant 3700 plants 10 kg 150 g 50 g 240 g
Per hectare 3700 plants 37 tons 555 kg 185 kg 888 kg


Weeks after planting
(Kg/plant) (g/plant) (g/plant) (g/plant)
Basal application 10 --- --- ---
1st to 8th week 24.0 15.0 15.0
9th to 16th week 58.5 25.0 19.0
17th to 24th week 37.5 10.0 51.0
25th to 32nd week 30.0 --- 71.0
33rd to 40th week --- --- 84.0
Total 10.0 150.0 50.0 240.0

Table 13. Fertigation schedule for banana based on water soluble fertilizers
Recommended dose Plant population/ha FYM N P2O5 K2O
Per plant 3700 plants 10 kg 120 g 50 g 200 g
Per hectare 3700 plants 37 tons 444 kg 185 kg 740 kg

Urea MAP Polyfeed KNO3 SOP

Weeks after planting
46-0-0 12-61-0 19-19-19 13-0-46 0-0-50
1st to 4th week 20.0 16.5 --- --- ---
5th to 8th week 16.0 --- 50.0 --- ---
9th to 12th week 43.0 --- 50.0 --- ---
13th to 16th week 43.0 50.0
17th to 20th week 18.0 58.0
21st to 24th week 15.0 87.0
25th to 32nd week 21.7 154.0
33rd to 40th week 180.0
Total 176.7 16.5 208.0 241.0 180.0

20. Bunch propping
Lodging of banana plants is due to poor anchorage, selecting weak and shallow suckers,
exceptionally large bunches, thin and flexible pseudostems, strong winds, damage due to rhizome
rot, or the burrowing nematode or by the use of tall cultivars. Damage is most serious when the
rhizome is completely uprooted because no more suckers can develop on that mat. If bunch losses
in an unpropped banana plantation are more than about 5% then it may be cost-effective to prop
throughout. There are three main methods of bunch support.
Use of wooden poles: Wooden poles of Eucalyptus spp., Causrina, Bamboo etc are used
for propping banana plants. One end of the pole is sharpened and embedded in the
ground, while the blunt end is wedged against the throat of the plant under the curvature of
the peduncle (Fig. 41). The prop should be clear of the bunch, to avoid fruit scarring.
Treated wooden props are more expensive, but are resistant to termites and this may be
more cost-effective in the long term. With taller cultivars it is recommended to use two
poles per plant. Double props are more stable against wind from different directions.

Fig.41. Propping in banana

Tying of adjacent plants: This system is more suitable in paired or double row system
and is based on the mutual support principle and entails tying adjacent plants together with
polypropylene twine. Bunches need to be at the same stage of development and leaning in
exactly opposite directions. For extra support, each plant may be tied to two other plants in
the adjacent row. Twine is tied from throat to base for stronger support, and the operation
is done soon after bunch emergence. The technique is normally cheaper than using
wooden poles.
Overhead cable system: This method is widely used, where timber is in short supply. A 5-
mm diameter wire is suspended above each banana row, supported by uprights, braced by
cross wires and stabilized at the end of anchors embedded in concrete. Bunches are tied
to the wire with polypropylene twine. Although initially expensive, the system is cost-
effective in the long-term and other advantages are that no bunches are lost, it is less
labour intensive than normal propping, chaffing of bunches is reduced and plantation
access is unimpeded.

21. Denavelling
Removal of male bud after completion of the female phase is referred to as denavelling or
bunch trimming. The male flower bud or bell is usually broken off by hand some 8 to 12 days after
bunch emergence, once the distance between the distal hand and the bell is at least 15cm. This
practice prevents movement of assimilates in to unwanted sink from the hanging bunch (i.e., male
flower), reduces fruit scarring and incidence of cigar end rot. Early removal of the apical meristem
from the male bud was reported to increase bunch mass, provided it is excised immediately after
flower emergence, before the female bracts have lifted away from the peduncle.

22. Bunch covers

The use of polyethylene bunch covers is widespread throughout the commercial banana
growing regions of the world. They are also commonly used to protect export market intended
banana fruit during development. The practice is regarded as essential to improve the market
quality and yield of the fruit. Bunch covers provide protection to the fruit surface against wind
damage, leaf and petiole scarring, dust, light hail, sunburn, bird feeding, and handling damage
during harvest and transport. A significant reduction in peel surface damage from insect pests and

the incidence of post-harvest anthracnose disease has been shown to be significantly less on fruit
from sleeved bunches. The net effect of bunch cover use is better fruit quality and increased
marketable yield (Turner, 1979).
Bunch covers are typically made of thin plastic (low density polyethylene; 5 to 40 microns)
and are 81.3 to 91.4 cm (32 to 36 inches) wide and range in length from 1 to 1.5 meters (3.3 to 5
feet). The thin bunch covers are designed to be used only once. The thicker ones can be re-used,
but the removal process is time consuming and it is difficult to avoid damaging the plastic.
Commercially available bunch covers generally are blue, green, yellow and clear, with and without
silver sides. The different colours are used as an aid in estimating bunch maturity and the silver
sides reduce sunburn. The recommended type of bunch cover varies according to environmental
conditions. Thicker non-perforated types are best suited for cooler sub-tropical growing areas (i.e.
Australia) where heat build-up inside the cover is desired (Fig. 42). In tropical growing
environments like Guyana, the thicker non-perforated bunch covers usually result in excessive heat
and humidity build-up inside the cover. Thin perforated bunch covers which allow for aeration
inside the cover are the preferred type for tropical growing areas (Fig. 42).

Fig.42. Use of bunch covers pays in bananas

The two most widely used perforated bunch covers for tropical areas are the pinhole type
(Fig. 42) which has 0.47 cm diameter holes, and the 1.27 cm (1/2 inch) hole type (Fig. 42).
Perforated bunch covers may also be impregnated with a slow-release volatile insecticide to
protect the fruit against insect pests during growth and development. The most commonly used
insecticide impregnated in the plastic is chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate insecticide sold under
the trade names of Lorsban or Dursban. Several other insecticides, dichlorvos and diazinon, are
also effective in warding off bunch pests. Bunch covers should be applied after the bracts covering
the hands have fallen, the fingers are curling upwards, and the floral remnants have hardened (Fig.
42). Typically, this occurs about 2 to 3 weeks after flowering. The time period from bunch covering
until harvest will be slightly over 2 months. Bunch covers are usually fabricated in the form of a
continuous tube made to the desired width. The tube should be cut in lengths of 1 to 1.5 meters,
depending on the bunch length. The hollow plastic tube should be slid up the bunch from the
bottom and securely tied or attached to the bunch stalk above the first hand of fruit. The bunch
cover should be left open at the bottom and hang at least 150 mm (6 inches) below the last hand of
Although the positive benefits of bunch cover application typically far outweigh the
undesirable effects, it is important to point out several possible negative consequences. The use of
non-perforated bunch covers in hot, humid climates such may damage the bunch physiologically
due to overheating, rotting, and premature ripening. In addition, insect pests may proliferate inside
non-insecticide treated bunch covers. Another negative consequence of ineffective bunch covers is
the economic loss due to the extra cost of the material and the labor needed for application.
22.1 Advantages
In cold winters and strong winds, effects of bunch covers are both physiological (improved
microclimate) and physical (larger fruit and reduced chafing from dust and leaves).
In severe summers, perforated bunch covers facilitate aeration and cooling
Increased yield, especially more large-grade fruit
More uniform fullness of fruit within the bunch
Reduction in sunburn using reflective covers
Pesticide-impregnated covers not only give protection against some pest but also give
mechanical protection to the fruit from leaf scarring, dust, light hail while it is hanging in the
plantation and from handling damage during harvest and transport.

Extra long bunch covers prevent birds from climbing into bunches
Fruit with better appearance
More profit

23. Desuckering
Desuckering describes the practice of destroying unwanted suckers, which develop from
the rhizome of a banana plant.
Surplus and unwanted suckers should be kept under control for better growth and yield of
the mother plant.
Desuckering once in 45 days is a common practice in banana plantation.
In a young plantation of up to 2 3 months, emerging small suckers are simply headed
back with a sharp knife. In later stages, removal along with their rhizomes is a must.
Remove excess suckers of 30cm height when the leaves are still in the thin, bract like
stage from the plant regularly, before they become too large and unmanageable.
Cut the sucker down, gouge a small cavity in the center of the cut surface, and pour in 2ml
of keresone or dieseline which moves downwards killing the meristem and preventing
sucker growth. Simply cutting off the young sucker at ground level with a machete, leaving
the meristem undamaged, causes the sucker to regrow and may need cutting several
Hormone desuckering with 2, 4-D amine (5% a.i.) is also successfully practiced in
Queensland, Australia and Israel, wherein 0.5ml of solution is applied to the funnel of the
sucker of 30cm height which eventually collapses at soil level.
Unwanted large suckers reduce the transmission of radiation, cause a drain of assimilates
from the parent plant, and competes directly with the follower sucker, extending the cycle
and reducing the yield of the latter.
Failure to desucker in time is a common management fault even in well-managed
plantations leading to yield reduction.
Some farmers also allow a second sucker to develop to a large size in direct competition
with the follower sucker. This second sucker is later excavated and used as planting

material. The practice is hygienically unsound and also reduces the yield of the follower
Taller suckers (50cm or 80cm) with broad leaves rapidly become competitive with the
selected follower sucker and reduce yields by 7.6% and 15.6%, respectively.

24. Ratoon sucker selection

Sucker selection refers to choosing the correct follower sucker to perpetuate the ratoon
plantation most effectively. Therefore, selection of the correct follower sucker is one of the most
critical operations in a banana plantation, especially when changing from the plant crop to the first
ratoon. There are three aspects to consider viz., stage of parent plant development, number of
suckers to select and the direction of selection. Depending upon the management system, the
priority of these three aspects may change. In all cases, however, vigorous sword suckers are
chosen in preference to the broad leaf water sucker type.
Select and retain one follower sucker at after emergence of bunch having a height of
30cm. With very early selection, there is a greater competition between parent and sucker
whereby the latter grows more slowly, remains suppressed for longer and produces a
smaller bunch.
Select a single sucker on each plant along the row.
Suckers must be of same shape, size and in the same direction otherwise planting system
becomes unmanageable
Select all R1 suckers exactly in the same direction and that subsequent ratoon suckers
follow this direction closely. Loss of symmetry and row structure makes accessibility and
management more difficult, and also weakens the plantation physiologically.
A sucker is not defined as selected when it is a small peeper emerging through the soil
surface, although it may well be earmarked for future selection. It is only regarded as being
selected when all the competing suckers are destroyed leaving the chosen sucker intact.
At this stage the selected sucker should be about 30 cm.
Several factors influence the direction of sucker selection viz., land topography (select
uphill), irrigation (along driplines not across them), planting system (along paired rows),
and climate (select for sun exposure in the morning when photosynthesis is highest and for
shade of the parent in the afternoon when heat stress is likely).

Taller suckers (50cm or 80cm) with broad leaves rapidly become competitive with the
selected follower sucker and reduce yields by 7.6% and 15.6% respectively, compared
with the recommended 30 cm desuckering (Robinson and Nel, 1990).

25. Leaf removal

Removal of whole leaves from a banana plant is usually carried out for three main
To reduce spread of leaf spot disease; leaves with > 50% of the leaf spot disease are
To improve light penetration and utilization by suckers and to increase pseudostem
temperatures, this is critical for growth in cool areas. Removed leaves serve as mulch.
Avoid rubbing and scarring fingers on the developing bunch to improve fruit quality. Leaf
removal operation is done at bimonthly interval to avoid weakening of pseudostem.
Preferably maintain a minimum of 12 healthy leaves at flowering, and nine at harvest to
achieve maximum bunch filling green life (Robinson, 1992). Cutting down the old pseudostem
after bunch harvest at 2m height increases bunch mass on the follower by 12% and decreases
time to the next harvest by 5% compared with cutting low (0.1 m) (Daniells and OFarrell, 1987).

26. Mulching
Mulching is an extremely beneficial practice likely to improve banana productivity
especially where irrigation water is in short supply (Salau, 1992). There are three main types
of mulch used in banana plantations, namely dead organic mulch (banana leaf trash, sugarcane
trash, coffee husks), polyethylene mulch and living mulch (usually a legume cover crop). Even
under normal irrigation supply, yields can be improved by mulching (Bhattacharyya and Rao, 1985)
(Fig. 43). Although black polyethylene mulch produced the highest yields, sugarcane trash gave
the highest cost/benefit ratio.
Benefits of mulching include the following:
Increased soil temperature: At a 5 cm depth; 1 to 2 0C under black mulch or 2 to 4 0C
under clear mulch.
Reduced soil compaction: Soil under plastic mulch remains loose, friable and well-
aerated. Roots have access to adequate oxygen and microbial activity is excellent.

Fig.43. Effect of mulching in banana on bunch yield (Bhattacharyya & Rao, 1985)

Reduced fertilizer leaching: Water runs off the impervious mulch resulting in maximum
utilization of the fertilizer.
Reduced evaporation: Soil water does not escape from under plastic mulch. Plant growth
on mulch is often at least twice that on bare soil. The resulting larger plants will require
more water, so mulching is NOT a substitute for irrigation.
Root pruning eliminated: Cultivation is not necessary except for the area between the
mulched strips. Therefore, roots are not pruned.
Reduced weed problems: Black plastic mulch provides good weed control in the row.
Clear plastic will require use of a herbicide or fumigation. Often, weeds between mulch
strips can be controlled by a herbicide.
Earlier crops: Black plastic mulch can result in 2 to 14 days earlier harvest while clear
plastic can result in a 21-day earlier harvest.
Increased growth and bunch yield: Plastic mulch is practically impervious to carbon
dioxide (CO2), a gas that is of prime importance in photosynthesis. Very high levels of CO 2
build up under the plastic, because the film does not allow it to escape. It has to come
through the holes made in the plastic for the plants and a "chimney effect" is created,
resulting in localized concentrations of abundant CO 2 for the actively growing leaves.
Addition of organic matter.

27. Windbreaks
Windbreaks are often planted in subtropical banana areas, especially by the sea, to reduce
prevailing wind damage. Casuarina windbreaks are increasingly being used to reduce the high
incidence of bunch stalk breakage induced by a combination of heat stress and strong winds.
Artificial windbreaks are used in parts of Israel (sheets of polypropylene net with 40 to 50%
permeability) and in the Canary Islands (breezeblock bricks protecting terrace plantings).
According to the recent research on wind damage, it may be economical to establish a
windbreak if the prevailing wind constantly tears new leaves into strips less than 50 mm wide
(Eckstein, 1994). Disadvantages of windbreaks are that they induce shading, occupy plantation
space, are expensive (artificial windbreaks), compete for nutrients and water, and afford only
limited protection to a distance of 10 x (windbreak height plantation height) on the leeward side.

28. Plant protection

Although bananas can adapt efficiently to produce high yields under a wide range of
climatic conditions, they are susceptible to a range of serious diseases. Likewise certain pests
cause economic damage and are serious production constraints. The control measures for
important pests and diseases attacking banana are given in Table 15.

Table 14. Plant protection measures for banana

Particulars Control measures

Rhizome weevil Practice clean cultivation and Plant only healthy suckers
(Fig. 44) Before planting trim and dip the rhizomes in methyl oxydemeton (2
ml/Litre solution)
Apply neem cake @ 250 g or Carbaryl @ 50 g dust or Phorate 10G
@ 10 g per pit before planting
In case of severe attack drench the base of the plant with Dimethoate
@ 2 ml/Litre
Burrowing Avoid using planting material from nematode infected areas
Nematode Plant suckers only after trimming all the roots
(Fig. 45) In endemic areas trim rhizomes, dip in clay slurry and apply
Carbofuran 3G @ 40 g per sucker before planting
Panama wilt Grow resistant varieties viz., Basrai, Poovan, Moongil and Rajabale
(Fig. 46) Avoid injury to plants while planting
Apply lime to infested pits before planting
Dip the suckers in Carbendazim solution (@ 1 g/Litre) before planting
Bimonthly drenching with Carbendazim solution (@ 1 g/Litre) starting
from 6th months after planting
Sigatoka leaf spot Remove and burn infected leaves
(Fig. 47) Provide proper drainage
Adopt proper spacing and weed management practices
Spray Bordeaux mixture (1%) + Linseed oil (2%) or Captan @ 2
Bunchy top Eradicate infected suckers using kerosene
(Fig. 48) Use only certified banana suckers
Inspect the crop regularly
In case of infection spray monocrotophos (@ 1.6 ml/Litre) or Methyl
demeton (@ 1 ml/Litre)
Mosaic virus Uproot and destroy disease affected plants
(Fig. 49) Use only disease free suckers
Treat the suckers at 40 C with dry heat for 1 day followed by
treatment with aureofungin (120 ppm) for effective control of disease
Moko/Bacterial wilt Soil solarization
(Fig. 50) Use only healthy planting material
Eradication of infected plants
Use only disinfected knives in preparation of planting material
Provide better drainage
Anthracnose Spray Chlorothalonil @ 2 g/Litre at 15 days interval minimizes latent
(Fig. 51) infections
Careful harvesting, clean picking, refrigeration at 10 C after harvest,
fruit dip in aqueous solution of benomyl (1000 ppm) or aureofungin
(100 ppm) help reducing blemishes on fruits


29. Harvesting, Transporting, Handling, Ripening and Storage

29.1 Harvesting
It is done for self-consumption (1 to 3 clusters per week), for sale to possible buyers
alongside the road or village track (about 10 clusters maximum) or on request of intermediaries.
The number of clusters in the later case depends on demand and supply of the producer compared
to the clusters, which have reached physiological maturity.
Optimum time of harvesting of banana bunches and the correct handling of the fruit during
transport and packing are vitally important prerequisites for obtaining high quality and premium
prices at the market place. Incorrect harvesting, transport, packing and storage techniques can
lead to either physical or physiological damage to the fruit, the extent of which will determine by
how much the fruit becomes downgraded in quality and price. At harvest, the intention of grower is
always to produce a large, blemish-free bunch, with premium-grade finger length and with a long
green life potential. Pre-harvest factors viz., cultivar, climatic conditions, soil conditions,
management expertise and functional leaf area present on the plant during bunch development
affect the post-harvest potential of a banana bunch.

In general, number of days from flower emergence, pulp : peel ratio, weight : length ratio,
disappearance of the angles, thumping sound of fruits, brittleness of the floral remnants and their
natural shedding, dullness of the fruit skin colour and odour are used as an index for bunch
harvesting. These standards are accomplished in Dwarf Cavendish in 113 130 days. Lower
temperature delays maturity while higher temperature advances it. For example, fruit could be
harvested fully mature for immediate ripening and local marketing. For short-distance transport of
green fruit, 90% maturity could be used, and for long distance transport by ship, 75% maturity is
normally used. These standards are critical because allowing fruit to become overmature during
hot weather can lead to premature ripening during transport. Conversely, harvesting too immature
in cool weather can lead to several kilograms loss of bunch mass and extended ripening

29.2 Transporting
In the traditional channel, the banana is generally transported in clusters from the field to
the farm and from one intermediary to the other. The cuttings into hands, bunches or fingers occurs
at the last stage of commercialization with the retailers. The type of transportation varies according
to the number of clusters to be carried, the distance to run and local removing methods:
Carried by people (1 to 3 clusters)
Trolley pushed or pulled by people (15 to 25 clusters)
Bicycle or motorcycle (1 to 7 clusters)
On the roof of travellers' transport van (50 to 60 clusters)
Truck (400 to 700 clusters)
By railway (more than a thousand clusters)
Clusters are thrown into the vehicle, piled-up one on top of the other, without any care. The
major concern is to convey maximum of the product while occupying all the available space. One
overloads the vehicle in order to make one trip only. These careless operations bring about twisting
of peducules, breaking and dropping of many fingers.

29.3 Handling and Packaging

a) Bananas are not subjected to packaging when supplied to local markets
b) Handling and packaging protocols are maintained for products destined for export:

2 people to harvest a cluster (one to cut, the other one to receive on a back with a
foam carpet);
Take the harvested product to the spot where it is going to be cut near the field or
packaging warehouse, hang it on a gantry;
Cut into hands or fingers with adapted tools (banacut to remove hands, special
knife, etc.);
Wash and possibly soak in a fungicide;
Package into cartons for transportation.
c) Small fruited banana Poovan and Rasthali are wrapped with banana leaves while Robusta
and Dwarf Cavendish are packed in boxes (Fig. 52).
d) High cost of boxes and their volume with increased freight changes do not encourage
packed transportation of banana in boxes.

Fig.52. Packing of banana fruits

e) Packing of bunch or dehanded fruits in polythene is promising. It is successfully
demonstrated that 100 gauge polythene bags with 0.2% holes enhance shelf-life under
room temperature as well as in cold storage, while polythene bags without any perforations
develop fungal infections due to high humidity.

29.4 Ripening and Storage

a) Ripening in closed chambers is widely practiced.
b) Ethylene is generated in a room to give uniform ripening.
c) An attractive colour in banana can be obtained by allowing ripening under controlled
d) Smoking and use of acetylene are not good.
e) Fruits are generally ripened in storage rooms with 90 to 95% relative humidity at the
outset, later reduced to 85% by ventilation; and at temperatures ranging from 58 to 75F
(14.4-23.9C), with 2 to 3 exposures to ethylene gas at 1: 1000, or 6 hourly applications
for 1 to 4 days, depending on the speed of ripening desired.
f) The fruit must be kept cool at 56 - 60F (13.3-15.6C) and 80 to 85% relative humidity
after removal from storage and during delivery to markets to avoid rapid spoilage.
g) Post-ripening storage at 70F (21C) in air containing 10 to 100 ppm ethylene accelerates
softening but the fruits will remain clear yellow and attractive with few or no superficial
brown specks.
h) In Israel, gibberellin A4A7, applied either by spraying or in the form of a lanolin paste, on the
stalk just above the first hands, or by injection of a solution, powder or tablet into the stalk
about 2 months before time of normal ripening, had the effect of delaying ripening from 10
to 19 days. If applied too early, the gibberellin treatment has no effect.
i) Dipping or spraying of bananas with a fungicide solution containing 400 ppm TBZ is
effective in checking many post harvest diseases.
j) Fungicidal wax coating is also effective in reducing weight loss, spoilage and delay in

30. Fruit Yield

A good commercial average bunch yield of banana raised with tissue culture plantlets
under drip fertigation in field conditions is 75 to 80 tons/ha (30 32 tons/acre).

31. Economics
The economics of banana cultivation with tissue culture plantlets under drip fertigation as a
case for Indian conditions is presented in Table 15. While the performance of banana crop under
drip fertigation in comparison to conventional ridge & furrow irrigation is presented in Table 16. The

economics of a 3-year banana crop rotation cycle (plant crop + ratoon I + ratoon II) under drip
fertigation is given in Table 17.
Table 15. Economics of Banana cultivation under drip ferti-irrigation
S.No Amount
Agronomic Practice Particulars
. (US$/ha)
1 Land preparation 222.8
2 Manures & Fertilizers and application costs 667.0
3 Plant material and planting costs 354.0
4 Herbicides and application costs 53.0
5 Propping of plants 390.0
6 Irrigation water application 53.0
7 Plant protection 99.7
8 Harvesting 66.7
9 Total cost of production 1906.2
10 Total Fruit Yield (kg/ha) 75.6

Table 16. Performance of Banana under Drip Ferti-Irrigation Versus Conventional

Surface Furrow Method of Irrigation
Drip Furrow
No. Particulars
Amount (US$)
1. Fixed cost per ha for drip irrigation system 1667.0 Nil
a) Life 10 years Nil
b) Depreciation cost (US$/year) 166.7 Nil
c) Interest @ 9% 150.0 Nil
d) Maintenance (US$/year) 25.0 NIL
e) Sub total [b+c] (US$/year) 341.7 Nil
2. Irrigation System Cost per year (US$/ha/year) 341.7 Nil
3. Cost of cultivation (US$/ha) 1906.2 1652.1
4. Seasonal total cost [2 + 3] [US$/ha] 2247.9 1652.1
5. Water used [mm/ha] 1081.0 1965.0
6. Yield [Tons/ha] 75.6 49.3
7. Price [US$/Ton] 66.7 66.7
8. Gross Income [6 x 7] [US$/ha] 5042.5 3288.2
9. Net Income [8 4] [US$/ha] 2794.6 1636.1
Net income due to drip over surface furrow method 1158.5 ---
[9 drip 9 furrow]
11. Net Income/mm of water used [9/5] [US$/mm of water] 2.6 0.83
12. Water use efficiency [6/5] [kg/ha mm] 69.9 25.0
Table 17. Economics of 3-year banana rotation under drip fertigation
Particulars Plant crop Ratoon I Ratoon II Total
Spacing 1.8m x 1.5m 1.8m x 1.5m 1.8m x 1.5m 1.8m x 1.5m
Plant population/ha 3700 3700 3700 3700
Water requirement (mm) 1081 1025 1011 3117
Cost of cultivation/ha 1906 1428 1428 4762

Drip irrigation system cost (US$/ha) 1667 -- -- 1667
Crop duration (months) 12 9 9 30
Bunch yield (Tons/ha) 75.6 72.1 70.2 217.9
Selling price (US$/Ton) 66.7 66.7 66.7 66.7
Gross monetary returns (US$/ha) 5043 4809 4682 14534
Net monetary returns (US$/ha) 1470 3381 3254 8105
Water use efficiency (kg/ha-mm) 69.9 70.3 69.4 69.9
Water productive efficiency (US$/ha-mm) 4.67 4.69 4.63 209.7
Pay back period < 1 year --- -- < 1 year

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