Smallscale farmers in Kenya can double the size of their banana bunches from 40 to 45kg – 80 to 100kgs by using health suckers from a clean, disease free orchard and inter-cropping with compatible crops such as beans.
Kenya has over 500,000 small holder banana farmers with 1.5% of Kenya’s total arable land. Over 80% of most East Africans rely on banana for income and food with the global market for the crop totaling to some 5B dollars a year.
Banana farming requires minimum effort but farmers should get some things right before getting started. According to a research by the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Organization, once a farmer obtains suckers from healthy plants, or a reliable seedlings supplier, any pests should be killed by the hot water method. This is done by heating water until just a candle melts in it (55 degrees Celsius) before removing it and putting the suckers in the hot water for 20 minutes.
Bananas do well in dark, fertile soils, lots of mulch and organic matter. Holes where bananas are planted should be dug 2ft by 2ft by 2 ft. The holes should be 9ft by 9ft apart. The top soil should be put 1ft in a heap and the subsoil put in a separate heap 1ft high.
Mix two ‘debes’ of organic manure with top soil and put the mixture back in the hole. Plant the sucker one and half to two feet deep. Use the sub–soil to fill up the hole. For higher yields, farmers should not plant more than four suckers per stool. For every six months, add two ‘debes’ of manure per stool.
Bananas thrive well in areas that are 1,200m and 1,600m above sea level, that get seasonal rainfall averaging 1,200mm, and with average temperatures of 25 degrees Celsius. In low rainfall areas farmers should irrigate their banana plants with 40 to 60 liters of water. However, water should be applied moderately as excess water encourages rotting of the roots due to clogging. The stems must be propped to prevent premature falling due to strong wind. Banana ready for harvest in 12 to 15 months after transplanting.
To prevent weeds, mulching is needed which can be done by placing dry grass six inches away from the plant and by intercropping with leguminous crops e.g. beans. It is important to de-leaf so as to get rid of old diseased leaves, burn them to reduce chances of re-infection.
Harvesting of Banana
Bananas should be harvested while they are still green, ensure you wear protective gear and cut the fruit with a machete carefully. The leaves of the harvested banana should be chopped and left on the ground to provide nutrients for the rest of the rest generation of banana plants.
There are different varieties of banana suitable for planting in Kenya which includes Williams, grand Nain, fhia 17, Uganda green for cooking, tissue culture & plantain. A quarter acre of land can hold 400 banana stems, which will mature in 9 to 16 months, depending on the variety.
A kilo of the fruit is sold at approximately Sh15 across Kenyan markets meaning an 80kg banana can earn a farmer Sh1200 per stem.
For tissue culture banana seedlings, contact oxfarm