Banana cultivation is a very profitable agriculture business in India. Tissue culture banana cultivation is the new trend to lower the risk and get higher banana production. Here is the complete guidance on banana farming in India and starting a successful banana plantation.

Banana is the fruit that smiles at you whether or not you eat it. This curvy, yellow fruit which is simply delicious to eat and loaded with vital nutrients was first domesticated in Papua New Guinea. Archaeological evidence suggests banana cultivation to go back to at least 5000 BCE. In India, bananas are grown in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam. Globally, India ranks first in banana production by producing about 14 million metric tonnes annually.

Banana Tree Information

Banana Flower
Banana flower

The edible modern varieties of banana are Musa acuminate and Musa balbisiana although there are several other varieties that are found. Natural hybrids of these two varieties are also cultivated commonly.

The roots of bananas are fibrous and the real stem is underneath. The flowers are actually protected by a boat-shaped covering called as ‘spathes’. They are dark red to maroon in color. The commercially cultivated edible bananas are parthenocarpic varieties. Therefore, they are seedless. The ovaries of the fruits develop into the edible pulp without fertilization. The fruits have three layers-

  • Leathery epicarp (yellow skin)
  • Slightly fibrous mesocarp
  • Fleshy endocarp (edible part)

Ideal Conditions for Banana Cultivation

Banana crop is a tropical fruit that can grow in alluvial soil and volcanic soil. Since India has a tropical climate most of the year, it can grow almost all year round.

Banana Plantation
A new banana plantation

Climate for Banana Cultivation

Banana grows at an altitude of 1200 meters from sea level in a warm and humid climate. 20⁰C- 35⁰C is the most favorable temperature range along with a high level of humidity for banana farming in India. The growth gets retarded below 20⁰C and above 35⁰C. They take longer time to mature in cooler climates while the growth and yield is reduced at lower humidity and temperature. An average annual rainfall of 1700 mm distributed evenly throughout the year favors good growth and satisfactory yield.

Season for Banana Cultivation

Tissue culture banana cultivation gives more freedom as tissue culture banana varieties can be planted any time of the year as per the market demands. However, the temperature at the time of banana plantation must be moderate- neither too high nor too low. The planting schedule depends on:

  • Type of land
  • Cultivation practice being followed
  • Duration of the cultivar (long or short)

Here is a table showing the planting schedule according to the region and conditions:

State Planting Time
Maharashtra Kharif- June to July
Rabi- October to November
Karnataka April to June
September to March
Kerala Irrigated Crop- August to September
Intercropping- August to September and April to May
Rain-fed crop- April to May
Tamil Nadu Tissue Banana- All through the year (except at low temperature)
Wetland- February to April and April to May
Padugai Land- January to February and August to September
Hill Banana- April to May and June to August
Garden Lands- January to February and November to December

Soil for Banana Plantation

For successful banana plantation, good porous, fertile soil with rich organic content is necessary since it is a heavy feeder. In addition, they have a restricted root zone therefore; drainage and depth of the soil are two important factors that must be considered.  In addition to having a good drainage capacity, the soil must be able to retain moisture and have a pH of 6.5-7.5. The nitrogen content of the soil must be high along with adequate levels of potash and phosphorus.

Black loamy soil of Maharashtra, clayey heavy soil along the Cauvery delta region, the alluvial soil of the Gangetic plains, sandy loam of Kerala and red laterite soil in the hilly regions of Kerala are ideal for banana plantation. Needless to say, these areas are well-known for banana cultivation.

Ideal pH for Banana Farming

Alkaline or acidic soils are not good for banana farming. A neutral pH of 6.5 to 7.5 must be maintained for banana crop.

Water for Cultivation of Banana

For the entire life cycle of banana it needs 900-1200mm of water. This is generally met through rainfall and whatever extra is needed it is provided through irrigation. It is important to maintain the moisture level at optimum during all growth stages and also drain out the excess water from the root zone. This is important from the point of view of growth and productivity of banana tree. Irrigation is done once a week when the climate is cool and once in every 3 days under hot conditions. Drip irrigation, trench irrigation and flood are some of the common irrigation systems followed for cultivation of banana. Each of them have their own merits and demerits. However, the most economical and popular one is drip irrigation. This is because they ensure water being dispensed at the root zone.

Crop Rotation with Banana

Banana is a heavy feeder. Therefore, having a long term banana plantation might not be a very beneficial form of farming at all. Bananas are hence rotated with crops like sugarcane, paddy, pulses, vegetables, etc. This helps soil to regain the fertility, ensure vitality and to some extent weed control. The period of crop rotation varies from 2-3 years on an average.

Intercropping in Banana Farming in India

Banana Farming Intercrop
Banana farming with arecanut intercropping

Intercropping is the most commonly followed practice in banana cultivation. While it ensures the health of the soil, it also provides substantial income for the farmers. In coastal areas like Karnataka and Kerala, banana is intercropped with coconut and arecanut. Ginger, pepper, elephant-foot yam, nutmeg are other crops that are cultivated along with banana. When choosing the intercrop farmer should consider the growth of banana plants.

Planting Material for Banana Cultivation

Tissue Culture Banana Cultivation
Tissue culture banana plant for commercial banana cultivation

Farmers most commonly use suckers as the planting material. Some of them also practice tissue culture banana cultivation using seedlings developed through tissue culture. Rhizomes and peepers are the other planting materials used for banana cultivation. There are two types of suckers, viz., sword sucker and water sucker. However, fruits produced through water suckers are of inferior quality and hence not used in commercial farming. Sword suckers are attached to the mother rhizome superficially and have broad leaves right from early stages. Suckers used for propagation must weigh 450-700 gm and must have a well-developed rhizome, conical in shape with an actively growing conical bud. To maintain a disease-free, healthy, high yielding banana plantation some farmers also use tissue culture banana plants.

Banana Varieties

There are different varieties of banana that are cultivated. While some like Monthan are also used as vegetable, most of them are cultivated for its fruit quality. Below are some of banana varieties cultivated for its dessert quality:

Variety Characteristics Resistance To
Ayrinka Poovan
  • No male flowers, so whole axis covered with fruits.
  • 15 months crop duration
  • Variety of Rasthali
Njalipoovan
  • Shade loving variety
  • Very sweet fruits
  • Very thin peels
  • Poor keeping quality
  • Suitable for intercropping with coconuts
  • Grown in Kerala
Less prone to infections by pests and diseases
Kathali
  • Small-sized, very sweet fruits
  • Popular in Kerala
Karpooravalli
  • Tall and robust
  • Suitable for growing in low soil input areas
  • Suitable for growth in drought affected areas
Tolerant to leaf spot
Cavendish
  • Ripe fruits are green in color
  • Poor keeping quality
  • Dwarf stature of plants make it less susceptible to damages by wind
Robusta
  • Ripe bananas are green in color
  • Another dwarf variety
Nendran
  • Distinct neck with a thick skin
  • Skin turns buff yellow on ripening
  • Starchy even after ripening
Monthan
  • Stocky, bold, knobbed fruits with pale green color
  • Cultivated for leaves
  • Tolerant to salt
Banana Bunchy Top Virus
Red Banana
  • Red colored skin
  • Fruit size is large
  • Skin turns dark brown or deep red on ripening
Palayam Kodan
  • Very soft when fully ripe
  • Cooling effect under humid weather conditions

Some of the hybrid varieties used for cultivation are:

Variety Parents Center Characteristics Resistance To
CO1 Ladan, Kadali and Musa balbisiana. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore
  • Suitable for growing in the plains and hills upto 1200 meters elevation
  • Yields 9 tonnes per acre
Udhayam Pisang Awak (AAB) sub
group
National research Centre for Banana, Trichy
  • Tall, robust and hardy plant
  • Medium fruit quality
  • Yellow life upto 7 days
  • Each bunch weighs 30-35 Kg
Banana Bunchy Top viral disease
BRS1 Agniswar x Pisang Lilin (triploid hybrid)  Banana Research Station, Kannara, Kerala Agricultural University
  • Elongated, slightly acidic fruits
  • Golden yellow on ripening
  • Bunch weight- 14-16 Kg
  • Complete 4 crops in 3 years
Resistance to leaf spot, Fusarium wilt and burrowing nematode.
BRS2  Vannan x Pisang Lilin Kannara Banana research station, Kerala Agricultural University
  • Short, stout, dark green Poovan like fruits
  • Arranged compactly
  • Medium stature
  • Slightly acidic fruits
  • Bunch weight- 15-20 Kg
Leaf spot and nematodes
FHIA-01 SH-3142 x Dwarf Prata in Honduras (pome hybrid)
  • Nick-named as ‘Gold Finger’.
  • Apple flavored fruits
  • Good shelf-life
  • Bunch weight- 20 to 25 Kg
Black Sigatoka, Fusarium wilt and apparently resistant to burrowing nematode.

Apart from these there are other varieties like Saba, Grand Naine, Ney Mannan, Chakkarakeli, Rasthali, Virupakshi, Sirumalai, etc. that are cultivated owing to their popularity as dessert and culinary varieties.

Land Preparation for Banana Cultivation

The land is tilled and ploughed so as to break down the soil clods. Stones, rocks and other debris must be removed. The land must be a fine tilth. Sometimes the fields are ploughed thoroughly till the soil becomes a fine tilth. Pits measuring upto 1.5 feet in depth are dug and exposed to sun for 2-3 days. This process helps in controlling weeds. Some farmers pack the pits with farm yard manure, phorate and neem cake, irrigate the field and then leave it as such for 3-4 days. This step helps the manure to get mixed with soil and also settle the loose soil. In places where there is high humidity but temperature can fall upto 5⁰C, the distance is kept t 2.1 X 1.5 m.

Farmers practice high density banana cultivation wherein upto 2000 plants can be accommodated in one acre. Here is a table showing the variety and number of plants per acre:

Variety Spacing Plant per acre
Poovan, Monthan, Rasthali, Kali, Nendran 2.13×2.13 870
Dwarf Cavendish 1.7×1.7 1440
Robusta 1.8 X 1.8 1210
Nendran 1.8 X 1.8 684
Hill Banana 2.4 X 3.0

4.1 X 3.6

4.8 X 4.9

545

270

170

Planting of Banana Crop

The most common method of planting followed is pit planting. The pits are modified as per planting requirement using manure, gypsum and neem cake. The suckers are planted at the center of the pit and soil is spread around it so as to pack it tightly. Deep planting in banana cultivation must be avoided. The fields are irrigated 3-4 days before planting and immediately after planting. Along the Cauvery delta region, trench planting is practiced while furrow planting is done in annual planting system in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

Diseases and Plant Protection

Banana Plant Diseases
Various diseases in banana plantation
Name of Disease Symptoms and Nature of Damage Control Measures
Panama Wilt
  • Lowermost leaves turn yellow from margins to mid-rib
  • Leaves break at base and hang
  • Pseudostem split longitudinally
  • Intercropping
  • Immediate removal of diseased plants along with surrounding soil
  • Infection free planting material
  • Injecting plant with 2% Carbendazim plus Agallol or Aretan soil drench
Mycosphaerella leaf spot
  • Spindle-shaped spots with a greyish center and yellow halo appear on leaves
  • The spots run parallel to veins
  • Fruits appear undersized with pinkish color on flesh
  • Destroying the infected leaves
  • Intercropping
  • Applying fungicides as soon as the infection is seen
Anthracnose
  • Small, black spots develop on fruits which enlarge and turn brown
  • Skin shrivels and develop pink averculi
  • Premature ripening of fruits
  • Infected fruits turn black and rot
  • Spraying 0.2% Chlorothalonil and 1% Bavistin 4 times in 15 day interval.
  • Prompt cooling to 14°C is essential in minimizing the disease in cold storage
Bacterial wilt
  • Leaves yellow and progress upwards
  • Central corm portion appears discolored
  • Fruits rot internally
  • Destroying the infected part
  • Manual detection
  • Farm implements must be sterilized and adequately cleaned with formaldehyde
Bacterial soft rot
  • Young suckers are affected by disease
  • Affected parts emit foul odor
  • Infected plant when pulled comes off easily with roots being left behind in the soil
  • Destroying the infected plants immediately upon detection
Banana Bract Mosaic Virus
  • Yellow green bands or mottling on young leaves
  • Abnormal thickening of the veins of affected leaves
  • Bunch development gets affected
  • Destroy the infected plant parts
  • Intercropping with cucurbit like cucumber controls this disease
Banana Streak Virus
  • Yellow streaking of the leaves that progressively become necrotic
  • Black streaks in older leaves
  • Quarantine infected plants
  • Severely infected plants must be destroyed

Apart from the above enlisted diseases, other diseases like Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV), Head rot, heart rot, crown rot, stem rot, etc. also affect banana crops. There are different insect and pests like caterpillar, aphids, nematodes, etc. that also affect the banana crop. While there are various chemical sprays, insecticides and fungicides available in the market, manual inspection of the crop at regular intervals and intercropping are the best ways to control and manage the diseases.

Harvesting and Banana Production

Harvested Banana Crop
Harvested banana crop

Irrigation in banana crop is stopped about a week or so before harvesting. This will help soil to dry up and easier labor movement. While the banana bunches are cut from the fields, other operations like cutting the hands, application of fungicides, etc. must be carried out in the shade. Sunlight may prove detrimental to the shelf life of bananas. The bunch must be 75% ripe, whole, and free from injuries, blemishes and green in color. The bunch is cut with a single stroke and the latex is allowed to flow freely. Once the flow stops, they are carried to sheds and must not be allowed to come in contact with the soil. Therefore, they are placed on leaves spread on the ground. Once the treatment is done, they are packed in gunny bags. Those having a poor shelf life are sent immediately to the market while those that can last upto a week are stored in cool conditions.

Banana cultivation in very profitable and viable agribusiness if planned well. The yield as per research is approximately 25 tonnes per acre. Sometimes the yield can be higher.

Reference

  1. http://agropedia.iitk.ac.in/content/banana-diseases-their-control
  2. http://vikaspedia.in/agriculture/crop-production/integrated-pest-managment/ipm-for-fruit-crops/ipm-strategies-for-banana/diseases-and-symptoms
  3. http://www.krishisewa.com/articles/disease-management/80-panama-wilt-banana.html
  4. http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/expert_system/banana/cropprotection.html
  5. http://nhb.gov.in/report_files/banana/BANANA.htm
  6. http://www.krishisewa.com/articles/production-technology/229-banana-cultivation.html
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana#Bananas_and_plantains

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