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    The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself. Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rhizome, and it takes 6 to 9 mo...

How to grow Banana

   

The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself. Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rhizome, and it takes 6 to 9 months from sowing a banana bulb to harvesting the fruit. The banana flower appears in the sixth or seventh month. Unlike other fruit like apples which have a growing season, bananas are available all year round.

Banana plants thrive in tropical regions where the average temperature is 80° F (27° C) and the yearly rainfall is between 78 and 98 inches. Most bananas exported are grown within 30 degrees either side of the equator. The plants need rich, dark and fertile soils with steady moisture in the air and ground and good drainage.

Preparation
According to Moses Lumu, an agronomist and agricultural consultant, slashing during the dry season is timely because it is easy to control weeds in the dry season than when done in the rainy season. Lumu says slashing the field in the rainy season may take a lot of time and labour which will increase the costs. Ploughing is advisable only if you intend to intercrop the bananas.
Lumu advises a farmer to dig holes which are 3X3m or 10X10 ft spread for marked spacing between the plants. The farmer could opt to use either metres or feet to avoid confusion.
The holes should be 2X2 and 2X3 ft for depth and width respectively depending on the amount of space one has.
“The holes can be filled with plant material and cow dung at the end of the dry season. The plant material and cow dung help to increase soil nutrients to prepare it for the new crop. When it starts raining, this is the opportune time for the farmer to start planting,” Lumu says.

Soil
All bananas require deep, well drained loam soil with high humus content. They best grow in soil pH ranging from about 5.6-7.5. They do not tolerate acidic soil. The crop needs an adequate supply of potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus.

Planting
Arthur Okiror, a farmer, says there are several local banana types and the choice of variety depends on the farmer’s preference.
The varieties have different names depending on the location but the commonly known in the central region are Musakala, Kisansa, Mbwazirume, and Mpologoma among others.
The farmer should only take suckers from vigorous banana plants. The suckers should have small, spear-shaped leaves and should be about four feet high. If they are smaller than this, they may take longer to fruit and the first bunch will be smaller.
“The farmer should be very careful about the tools used during the trimming of the suckers because if some suckers are infected with pests and diseases, they will infect the rest of the garden since you are using the same tools to trim and plant the suckers,” Okiror says.
He therefore advises that the suckers be trimmed and dipped in pesticides before they are planted to prevent the spread of disease and pests.

The young plantation
In the early stages, the most common cause of death for banana suckers is lack of water. Ensure to keep your banana plants moist but not too wet because they may rot.
Also, it is important to keep away the weeds because they compete with the plants for nutrients and space.
If you are intercropping, ensure to provide nutrients for the intercrops or the bananas may not have enough nutrients as the intercrops deplete them from the soil.
Okiror says, “Remove all the dead leaves and use them as mulch if you did not intercrop. As you mulch, ensure that the mulch material is not too close to the banana mat because this may encourage the breeding of pests and diseases as well as birth of more young ones.”
For ample spacing, you need about three suckers for every mat in the garden. Cut off any big leaves from the suckers because they do not need them.

BY Beatrice Nakibuuka

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