Banana is still the most preferred staple crop in Uganda. Its ability to fruit all year round makes it more important for household food security and income.
As an arm of National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) Uganda, we are mandated to generate new varieties of bananas but provide information on how a banana farmer can enhance productivity.
Below is the basic information one has to know when venturing into banana farming. This includes key information on different plantation management practices, soil and water conservation and management practices and pests and disease prevention and control measures.
(a) Site selection
In banana farming, every location is unique and variety performance follows site specification. Bananas grow best in well-drained deep soils. Good drainage for your banana plantation ensure the plant roots can easily penetrate the soils allowing aeration.
Avoid swampy areas to prevent environmental degradation, restricted root development and higher chances of leaching (washing of plant nutrients from the upper soil layers to the bottom layers of the soil).
(b) Land Preparation
Depending on the land, a farmer should ensure to firs carry out bush clearing and uproot any stumps. Deep ploughing also helps to loosen the hard surface (break any hard pans) close to the surface to improve aeration and water infiltration. Do not burn bushes. Residues from bush clearing can be used for mulching. In some cases, one can use herbicides to avoid perennial weeds.
(c) Spacing and making planting holes
It is key to plant using the most appropriate spacing or make holes in their own localities. The standard recommended spacing is:
- If a farm has good soil fertility and is located in an area that receives high rainfall (over 1200mm/annum), use spacing of 2.5mx2.5m from plant to plant for varieties with normal suckering traits. Over suckering traits use 3mx3m
Proper spacing ensures optimum plant population, minimizes plant competition for growth production resources, enables sunlight penetration and allows proper management practices e.g. when mulching or harvesting.
- Dig holes of 2ft deep, 3ft wide and 3ft long to allow for root expansion and water retention. Large holes collect enough water for the bananas and improves root penetration
(d) Seed selection
Seed is specially, selected and set aside high quality material for purposes of planting. The source, type and cost of seed always have implications. Both new and local varieties are good. However, it is advisable to use improved varieties that have been conventionally bred to solve specific production constraints such as pests and diseases and Low yield and moisture stress/drought.
Some of the NARO banana hybrids include Kabana 6H & 7H, NAROBan 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. These planting materials can be accessed at our offices located at the National Agricultura Research Laboratories (NARL) – Kawanda. Some of the recommended local varieties include: Mbwazirume, Kibuzi, Mpologoma, Musakara etc.
(e) Selecting planting materials
It is recommended to always begin with clean planting materials. To achieve better crop establishment, select sword suckers that are vigorous and which are free from pests and diseases. When cleaning suckers for planting, remove all roots and dead tissues (paring).
- Cut the corm at the base to ensure a flat base and make a slanting cut at the top (at most at 1.5 feet (45cm) from the base). The slanting cut allows rain water to flow off and avoids rotting.
Paring is done to ensure pest free planting material and the pared sucker will develop its own roots.
(f) Manure preparation & application
Bananas can produce good yields if well fed and managed. Feeding of the bananas can be done in different ways including the use of organic manure obtained from animal waste and crop residues and inorganic fertilizers.
- The recommended manure application is to mix all the top soil with 2 basins of well decomposed manure and pour in the hole (to about half-full) to allow for water retention.
- Dig around the hole to get more top soil if the top soil is not enough. Ignore the sub-soil because it is compact and does not contain any nutrients.
For better use efficiency and sustainability, it is advisable to integrate organic and inorganic fertilizers.
• Using manure solely, is relatively costly and less profitable
• Using inorganic fertilizer solely results in low use efficiency
Examples of manure:
Manure is derived from animal and plant matter. It includes; animal wastes, peat, slurry and others. However, the commonest is farm yard manure from cattle, piggery goat etc.
Proper handling of manure:
- Collect manure when it is still fresh and keep it under shade, protected from direct sunshine and running water. The helps to retain the nutrients.
- Allow the manure to decompose until it is no longer hot and it smells like ‘soil’.
Timing of manure application: Manure can be applied at planting, at rehabilitation of an abandoned banana plantation or for maintainence for a well performing plantation.
The primary nutrients required are Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K). Inorganic fertilizers contain one or more of these nutrients.
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