Banana (Musa sp.) is a leading fruit grown in the Philippines and remains one of the major export earners in the country in which the Philippines ranks 5th among the world's top banana industry (Sebastian, 2000). It is considered the premier fruit crop in the Philippines today. Some of the most famous banana variety that is being grown not only in the Philippines but in the whole Southeast Asia are Lacatan and Saba.
Saba grows to as tall as 20 feet; fruit is angular; has thick peel that is green when unripe, yellow when ripe; flesh is white when ripe; gestation period is 15-16 months. Lacatan grows to a height of five to nine feet; fruit is round, seedless; has thick peel that is green when unripe, yellow-orange when ripe, gestation period is 14-15 months. Other varieties grown in the country includes Latundan, Bungulan, Cavendish, Morado, Pitogo, Los Baños, Señorita, Tindok, Gloria, Granada, and Tumok.
(Sources: Department of Agriculture- Bicol Region, Date accessed 20 March 2014)
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Climate and Soil Requirements
Banana is well adapted to well-drained, loamy, soil that is rich in organic matter. Areas with an average rainfall of 4000 millimeters (mm) a year are ideal sites for a banana plantation. A temperature between 27 to 30 degrees Celsius is most favorable to the crop. Banana grows at sea level up to 1,800 meters altitude. It is susceptible to root rot when exposed to too much water. Typhoon belt areas do not make good plantation sites.
Banana can be propagated through its rhizomes and suckers, the latter however, is best recommended.Suckers must be parasite-free and have healthy roots. These are spaded out of the clumps when four to five feet tall.
The field is plowed and harrowed thrice. All stumps and bushes must be removed. Knee-deep holes with 45-cm diameters are dug and each hole is fertilized with 10 grams of complete fertilizer and a few of granular nematode.
Suckers are set on field in vertical position, then covered with surface soil. Compost material added to the soil enhances the recovery and growth with the new plants. The soil is stumped around each base and watered regularly. During dry months, irrigation if possible, is advised. Planting is best at the start of the rainy season.
Cultivation and Maintenance
Cultivation should go beyond six inches from the base of the plant to avoid root injury. Intercrops or Glamoxine or Karmex spray act as weed control. Plants must be propped with bamboo poles during fruiting for support against strong winds.
Desuckering or Pruning
Unnecessary suckers must be killed by cutting them off from mother plants. Only one or two suckers must be allowed per hill to reduce soil nutrients competition.
For poor soils, fertilizers should contain N-P-K at a ratio of 3-1-6. The ratio is doubled when fertilizers are applied to young plants. The amount of fertilizer applied increases as the tree matures. At flowering and fruiting period, a tree needs five to six pounds of complete fertilizer.
Pests and Diseases
There are at least 27 insect pests that attack banana plants in the Philippines. However, there are only three pests known to cause significant damage over all types of banana.
1. Banana Corm Weevil- feeds on suckers and destroys the corm tissues. It causes the suckers to die of bore attack. To control this pest, spray the soil with Dieldrin, Furadan or Aldrin. Sanitation and cutting of affected corms are also effective cultural controls, and are environment friendly.
2. Fruit-peel sarring beetle- damages the fruit surfaces. The banana bunch is usually sprayed with Decis to control infestation.
3. Banana Floral Thrips- can be easily controlled by Diazinon or Decis spray.
The three major diseases of banana are the sigatoka, pitting or wilting and the moko.
1. Sigatoka is a leaf spot disease caused by Mycosphaerella musicola. This causes the premature death of leaves. In serve cases, the size of bunches and fingers are reduced. The fruit also ripens prematurely and develops abnormal flavor and smell. Plants are usually sprayed with Bordeaux mixture. Badly spotted leaves are removed to avoid contamination.
2. The pitting or wilting disease is characterized by dry, reddish-brown or black, circular or oval, depressed spots. Sanitation is one way of preventing the disease which comes in season with the rainy days. All collapsed leaves should be removed.
3. The moko disease, on the other hand, is transmitted from plant to plant by insects and infected tools. The impact of moko to plants is similar to that of the sigatoka. Only, it does not emit unfavorable smell. Infected fruits also blacken inside. Infection is prevented by disinfecting tools with formaldehyde.
In view of environmental considerations, alternative controls to pests and diseases are being introduced under Integrated Pest Management. Infected plants and weeds must be uprooted to keep the area free of host plants for six to 12 months.
Regardless of variety, the maturity of banana can be distinguished when the last leaf turns yellow. The angle formation of the fingers also determines ripeness. The rounder the angle of the fingers, the more mature they are.
Saba is harvested 15 to 16 months after planting; Lacatan, four to 15 months; Latundan, 12 months; Bungulan, 12 months; Cavendish, six to eight months.
Harvesting needs two people to serve as the cutter and the backer. It involves cutting deep into the middle of the trunk and letting the top fall gradually until the bunch is at the reach of the backer. The peduncle is cut long enough to facilitate handling.
Fruits for immediate shipping are harvested five to 10 days before ripening. Bananas for marketing are packed in crates as tightly as possible to lessen unnecessary vibrations during transport.
Sources: Department of Agriculture- Bicol Region, Date accessed 20 March 2014