Banana is one of the most common and widely grown fruit crops in the Philippines. It is also one of the country’s major dollar earners, and has consistently ranked next to coconut oil and prawns in terms of value earnings during the last five years.
In 1991, banana topped local production among the other major fruits such as pineapple and mango, thus eating up more than one-third of the production pie.
Banana has various uses. The ripe fruit is pureed, candied, and preserved in various forms when not eaten fresh. Its extract is used in the manufacture of catsup, vinegar, and wine. The unripe fruit is powdered and chipped.
In rural areas, the young leaves are pounded to suppress bleeding and treat wounds. The leaves are also widely used as packing materials for fruits and vegetables in market centers. Banana fiber is manufactured into rope, sack, and mat. Sheets of paper and paper boards are also made from banana peel. Banana blossom is exported dried. Filipino housewives use it in special dishes.
Banana is native to Southeast Asia where the climate is warm and humid. Of the 57 banana cultivars, the following are the most common in the Philippines:
1. 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 to 16 months.
2. Lacatan grows to a height of five to nine feet; fruit is round, seedless; has thick peel that has green when unripe, yellow-orange when ripe; gestation period is 14 to 15 months.
3. Latundan grows from six to 10 feet tall; fruit is round; has thin peel that is green when unripe, yellow when ripe; flesh is white when ripe; gestation period is 12 months.
4. Bungulan fruit is round, very sweet, seedless and easily rots; has thick peel that is green when unripe and remains green when ripe; flesh is white when ripe; gestation period is 12 months.
5. Cavendish reaches five to 10 feet high; fruit is bigger than Bungulan; peel is green when unripe, yellow when ripe; flesh is yellow when ripe; export quality; gestation period is six to eight months.
Other varieties grown in the country include the Morado, Pitogo Los Banos, Senorita, Tindok, Gloria, Granda, and Tumok.
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 do not make good plantation sites.
Banana can be propagated through its rhizomes and suckers. The latter, however, is the best recommended. Suckers must be parasites-free and have healthy roots. These are spaded out of the clumps when four-to-five feet tall.
The fields is plowed and harrowed thrice. All stumps and bushes must be removed. Knee-deep holes with 45-cm diameters are dug and 3each 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 of the new plants. The soil is stumped around each base and watered regularly. During dry months, irrigation, if possible, is advised.Planting is the 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 sprays 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 the 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.
PEST AND DISEASES
There are at least 27 insect pests that attack banana plants in the Philippines. However, there are only three pests known to cost significant damage over all types of banana.
The 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 Furadan 5 G, 10 G. Sanitation and cutting of affected corms are also effective cultural controls, and are environment friendly.
Fruit-peel sarring beetle damages the fruit surfaces. The banana bunch is usually sprayed with Decis to control infestation. The banana floral thrips can be easily controlled by Diazinon 40/60 EC or Decis 2.5. 100 EC spray.
The three major diseases of banana are the sigatoka, pitting or wilting and the moko.Sigatoka is a leaf spot disease caused by Mycosphaerella musicola. This causes the premature death of leaves. In severe cases, the size of bunches and fingers is reduced. The fruit is also ripens prematurely and develops abnormal flavor and smell. Plants are usually sprayed with Bordeaux mixture. Badly spotted leaves are removed to avoid contamination.
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.
Moko disease, on the other hand, transmitted from plat to plant by insects and infected tools. The impact ok 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 plats 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 the are.
Saba is harvest 15 to 16 months after planting; Lacatan, 4 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 if the backer. The peduncle is cut long enough to facilitate handling.
Fruits for immediate shipping are harvested 5 to 10 days before ripening. Bananas for marketing are packed in crates as tightly as possible to lessen unnecessary vibrations during transport.