Banana production has good income if done well

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Bananas are easy to grow. But, farmers need to know how to grow tissue culture bananas as they are free of diseases, require good management to produce more and fetch good prices in the market.

Knowledge on proper management can increase banana production. Good farming practices can increase yield, quality and income for farmers. Below are various factors, stages and strategies of growing and caring for banana crops:

Climatic requirements

Bananas do well under warm, humid conditions. Their growth and development are optimum at temperatures between 22°C and 31°C. Plant development retard at humid conditions below 16°C, stops at 10°C, and may die below ¯2°C. It gets scorched at or above 37°C. Generally, bananas require a minimum of 2000–2500 mm of rainfall annually or 25 mm per week.

They are best planted on a flat area (slope 0–1 %), well drained deep soils with high organic matter content and a pH of between 5.5 and 7.0. Soils with high acid levels (low pH) increases susceptibility of bananas to Panama disease. Poor soils such as light sandy soils can be improved by mulching and adding organic matter. This improves water retention and nutrients to the soil. Bananas cannot withstand water-logging.

It causes rotting of its roots, which can be solved by planting in raised beds.

Land preparation

Soil tillage is done by a mechanized method, by ploughing and harrowing, until all vegetation is removed. Planting should be done at the onset of the rainy season. Bananas require about 4-6 months of continuous growth and rain shortage can be complimented with irrigation.


The spacing of banana plants varies depending on the soil fertility and the variety being planted. However, a spacing of 1.82m x 1.52m with 3,630 plants per hectare (about 1815 plants per acre) is efficient since it minimizes competition for light and diseases such as sigatoka.


Planting is done by preparation of 200-300mm deep planting furrows, marking out planting positions using a measuring tape, digging holes at the bottom of the furrow, adding organic manure and an equal amount of organic manure and mixing thoroughly. When using suckers that had not been cleaned earlier, you can add some insecticide or nematicide in the planting hole.

The soil is then pre-irrigated to field capacity awaiting planting. Plants to be planted should be watered in the morning and placed upright in the middle of the 45cm deep planting hole. This to be at a depth of 30cm leaving 15 cm at the bottom of the hole for the mixture of topsoil and manure.

When dealing with tissue culture plants, one should carefully remove the plantlets from the plastic bag using a knife without disturbing the plant roots. After placing the sucker in the hole, the rootball is first covered with topsoil mixed with manure then topped with the subsoil.

The soil is then compressed lightly around the plant to remove air pockets and watered. When using corms, dig a small hole in the previously prepared hole and place the corm 10cm deep. Ensure that the bud/eye faces downward and the cut end upwards to prevent rotting of the bed.


One should place a 2-3cm thick layer of dry grass around the corm or sucker as mulch with at least a 2cm gap between the plant and mulch. Water the crop on daily basis using a watering can with small nozzles. Provide at least a half litre of water during the first two weeks. Watering should preferably be done in the evening.

Use organic fertilizer

Bananas require fertilizers with nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium at a ratio of 3:1:6 for vigorous growth. An initial application of 100grams per plant can be made when plant growth starts. One can do fertigation or direct application after rain. After the plants establish, a topdressing with the above organic fertilizers can be made at a rate of 100-150grams/plant or 100kg /ha and applications of nematicides in the 1st year. Apply an inch away from the leaf. Use 15 to 20 tonne/ha (7.7 to 10 tonnes per acre). Farmyard or compost manure should be incorporated in the soil.

Water management

Drip irrigation is the most efficient mode of irrigation. It saves on water and ensures there is even distribution of nutrients during fertigation. Overwatering should be avoided because excess water cause rotting of the roots. Newly planted plants should be irrigated for at least two weeks to protect leaves from heat stress. In case there is no rainfall, then irrigation should be done on a “little and often” basis.


Mulch is used to conserve moisture, keep the soil cool as it blocks sunlight, slow down the growth of weeds and add nutrients to the soil after decomposing. It’s best done when the plants are young to promote faster growth. Mulch can be synthetic or natural. Sawdust, banana plant residues (dead leaves and pseudo stems) and dry grasses are some of the readily available kind of mulches. It should be placed at least 50 cm away from the base of the plant since it generates heat during decomposition.

Weed Control

Weeds compete with the banana plants for water and nutrients which can result in stunted growth. Therefore, banana plantations should be kept weed-free by hand weeding, hoe weeding in combination with mulching. Hand weeding is preferred to hoe weeding because it is less destructive to the delicate banana roots.

Pests and diseases management

To overcome pests and diseases, plant certified seedlings such as tissue culture plantlets. Another approach is application of biopesticides.


Intercropping can be done during the early stage of the plantation. The banana can be intercropped with short duration crops between the banana rows e.g. beans, maize etc.

Desuckering and Pruning

Having too many suckers increases competition for light, water and nutrients. This leads to poor growth and reduced yields. Its advisable to maintain one mother plant and two followers (daughter and granddaughter). Remove all other suckers by cutting the stem off the ground. It’s advisable for the mother plant and the subsequent sucker to have an interval of 2 months. Also, it is better to choose the suckers facing eastwards to maximize on the morning sunshine if the terrain is relatively flat. The removed suckers can be re-planted elsewhere within a day or two of its removal.


Remove the male bud (the purple flower petals at the end of the bunch). Deflowering is done to promote growth of bigger bunches instead of longer stalks. It also reduces incidents of cigar end rot disease, which is transmitted by insects. The buds are removed when the peduncle (the stalk at the end of the banana) is at least 15cm below the last female hand. The peduncle is carefully cut with a forked stick without damaging the fingers. Use of knives can easily spread diseases.


The removal of old, dead and infected leaves enhances light penetration, improves air movement, to get natural mulch and to reduce leaf diseases. Many leaves lead to scratches, damaged fruits and provide refuge for banana weevils.

Earthing up

Heap the soil at the base of the plant three months after planting. This prevents falling of the plants during windy weather.

Removal of female hands

The last one or two hands of the bunch are removed. This facilitates fruit development of the remaining bunches and increases bunch weight.


The bunches are covered with bags (plastic sleeves) to protect them against insects, diseases, spray residue, sunburn, birds and wind. Bagging increases the weight, quality of fruits and increases the temperature within the bunch promoting early maturity.


Banana plants need support to prevent breakages and toppling (uprooting) due to heavy weight of the bunches. Strong winds, nematodes and weevils increase the chances of toppling. Support can be done using, wood props (mostly bamboo), wooden pegs or ropes. The pegs can be placed along the pseudostem or underneath the bunch.

Harvesting and storage

Fingers are ready for harvest when they are fairly evenly rounded. Assessment for maturity can also be done by cutting the fruit open. A yellowish appearance is a sign that it is ready for harvest. Harvesting is done by cutting the pseudostem using a panga and carefully lowering the bunches down. Harvested bunches should be placed in well-padded basket to avoid bruising. They should be kept in a cool shaded place. Bananas can be refrigerated to slow down the ripening process.

Good returns

Mature bananas without marks or injuries have high demand from the consumers. A finger of unripe and ripe bananas trade at KSh 100 to KSh 150 and KSh 150 to KSh 200 respectively. Depending on the number of fingers a bunch holds. The price of a bunch of ripe bananas ranges from KSh 1,000 to KSh 2,000. Demand is high in all the major towns in Kenya.

Tissue culture plantlets are the recommended planting material since they are disease-free, uniform and take a shorter time to mature unlike suckers. Tissue culture plantlets can be purchased from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) Nairobi or at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KARLO) centres across the country.

For more information on banana production



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