The banana is one of the most produced and commercialized fruits in the world. Suckers spring up around the main plant. The eldest sucker replaces the main plant when it fruits and dies, and this process of succession continues indefinitely. Tender, smooth, oblong or elliptic, flesh-stalled leaves numbering 4 or 5 to 15, are arranged spirally, and can be up to 2.7 m long and 60 cm wide. The inflorescence, a transformed wing point, is a terminal spike, shooting out from the heart in the tip of the stem.
- Altitudes – Altitudes of below 1800 m above sea level are generally recommended for the production of bananas.
- Temperature – For optimal growth, bananas require a warm humid climate. An average temperature of 20°C to 30°C is required. Below 20°C, normal plant growth is retarded. Lacatan and Valery tolerates cold weather better than other varieties. Cooler areas (higher altitudes) slow down plant development and the inflorescence may also fail to emerge.
- Rainfall – Bananas can grow well with an annual rainfall of 1000 to 2500 mm. optimal yields require a well distributed annual rainfall of 1400 mm or more, without long dry spells.
- Soils – Bananas can be grown in a wide range of soils as long as there is good drainage and adequate fertility. They can tolerate short periods of flooding but do require good soil aeration. Light to medium, well drained loam soil is the best. Fertile deep soils rich in humus should be chosen wherever possible. For best growth, a pH range of 5.5 to 6.5 is recommended.
The spacing depends on the variety, soil fertility level, and rainfall (water availability). The following spacing is recommended under a five-year cycle on a fertile soil with adequate rainfall:
- Short variety (Dwarf Cavendish, Giant Cavendish) 2.5m × 3m.
- Medium variety (Valery, Williams) 3.0m × 4.0m
- Tall variety (Lacatan, Poyo) 4.0m× 4.0.
- A planting hole measuring 90 cm ×90 cm × 60 cm is recommended although this may vary depending on water availability. In dry and semi arid areas it is recommended to use larger holes measuring 90 cm × 90 cm × 60 cm. the topsoil and the subsoil should be kept separately. Mix the topsoil with one bucket (about 20 kg) of well decomposed manure and 150 g of TPS. Refill the hole with the top soil first followed by the sub soil.
- To ensure good anchorage, a sucker or a corm with the eyes facing upward should be placed 30 cm deep in the planting hole. A heavy cover of mulch should be placed around each plant to conserve soil moisture. Under rain fed conditions, planting should be carried out only at the onset of the rains. However, if irrigation water is available, planting can be done throughout the year.
- The time for planting to maturity of a banana depends on area and variety. A plant takes roughly 8 to 12 months to mature. Maturity indices vary widely among varieties. Angularities or fullness of fingers, as well as color change are some of the standard criteria used. Immature bananas are very angular but fill out to a rounded shape at full maturity.
- Fruits are ready for harvesting 90 – 150 days after fingers start to form. Fingers are considered mature for harvest when they are ¾ round (75% maturity)