Altitudes of below 1800 m above sea level are generally recommended for the production of bananas.. For optimal growth, bananas require a warm humid climate. An average temperature of 20°C-30°C is required. At Below 20°C, normal plant growth is retarded. Lacatan and Valery tolerates cold weather better than other varieties. Cooler areas (higher altitudes) slow down plant development and the inflorescence may also fail to emerge.
Bananas can grow well with an annual rainfall of between 1000 and 2500 mm. optimal yields require a well distributed annual rainfall of 1400 mm or more, without long dry spells.
Before planting, deep soil cultivation by ploughing and harrowing is recommended. The fields should be free of trees, bushes and especially perennial weeds
Should be done at the onset of rains. Under dry conditions dig holes 90cm by 90cm by 60cm, in wet areas dig the holes 60cm by 60cm by 60cm.
Spacing is done as follows:
Short variety (Dwarf Cavendish, Giant Cavendish) 2.5m × 3m.
Medium variety (Valery, Williams) 3.0m × 4.0m.
Tall variety (Lacatan, Poyo) 4.0m× 4.0m.
Fertilizer and Manure Application
At planting, about 150-200g of triple super phosphate (TSP) should be applied per plant.
An early and good supply of nitrogen fertilizer is essential to accelerate the growth of pseudo-stems and faster flowering.
To 250-300g of calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) should be distributed around each stool per year, together with 125g of TSP, which is worked into the soil.
40-60kg of decomposed farmyard manure is applied per stool per year before the rains. This is applied on the outer diameter of the canopy. A short-forked hoe is used to incorporate the manure shallowly and carefully, to ensure no root damage.
Cultivation should always be shallow because a banana plant is shallow rooted. If mechanical weeding is done, care should be taken to avoid any disturbance of the roots and the developing suckers.
The spacing depends on the Soil fertility level, rainfall (water availability). The following spacing is recommended under a five-year cycle on a fertile soil with adequate rainfall:
· Short variety (Dwarf Cavendish, Giant Cavendish) 2.5m × 3m.
· Medium variety (Valery, Williams) 3.0m × 4.0m.
· Tall variety (Lacatan, Poyo) 4.0m× 4.0m.
Clean, healthy planting material consisting of side shoots, or pieces of corm with one to two eyes can be used. Cutting back of the mature shoots encourages the production of side shoots.
Fertilizer and Manure Application
At planting, about 200 g of triple super phosphate (TSP) should be applied per plant. An early and good supply of nitrogen fertilizer is essential to accelerate the growth of pseudo-stems and faster flowering. To 300 g of calcium ammonium nitrate (CAN) should be distributed around each stool per year, together with 125 g of TSP, which is worked into the soil. Two to four debes of decomposed farmyard manure is applied per stem per year before the rains. This is applied on the outer diameter of the canopy. A short forked hoe is used to incorporate the manure shallowly and carefully, to ensure no root damage.
Cultivation should always be shallow because a banana plant is shallow rooted. If mechanical weeding is done, care should be taken to avoid any disturbance of the roots and the developing suckers. Earthlings up of the stem base is required in windy areas.
Advantages of mulching:
Suppress unwanted weed growth
Provide humus for a good soil structure.
Grass, banana leaves, or old pseudo-stems mulch can be used to return the nutrients to the soil. However, the use of old pseudo-stems can encourage banana weevil infestation. The stem should therefore be well chopped and allowed to dry before use.
Pruning and Propping
To provide bigger and higher quality bunches, bananas have to be de-suckered regularly to control any unwanted sucker growth. Only three pseudo-stems should be allowed to remain on each corm: one bearing one half grown, and one just sprouting.
Surplus suckers should be removed as early as possible in their development and perhaps used as planting material. Dead leaves should be removed at least twice a year. After harvesting, the pseudo-stem should be cut off from the plant at ground level.
Propping of the fruit bearing pseudo-stem should be done to prevent breakage caused by heavy bunches. Done with wood or bamboo, for bamboo requires digging a hole about 40 to 60 cm deep at the base of the stem to install the prop. Tie the bunch to the prop near the portion where the fruit stalk emerges from the stem. Y-sticks can also be used for staking. This helps avoid unnecessary logging of the stems especially due to massive fruiting
Several steps can be taken to replenish or increase soil nutrients; they include:
Mulching of banana fields is a traditional agronomic practice favored for its suppression of weeds, conservation of moisture and maintenance of soil fertility. It also plays an important role in the control of soil erosion. This can be done through the following ways:
Spreading pruned banana leaves and plant parts remaining after harvest on the plantation floor, supplemented with materials from crop fields, fallow fields, swamps and livestock manure.
Household wastes are distributed near the homestead resulting in a soil fertility gradient that causes higher yields near the homestead and lower yields as the distance from the house increases.
Intercropping of bananas with other crops is also a common soil fertility improvement effort, which when it occurs, is sometimes a secondary benefit to the primary purpose of the practice.
Perennial crops such as coffee can be intercropped with bananas for the provision of shade especially at establishment. They also benefit the banana by recycling nutrients from deep capture, because of their rooting system, via litter fall.
Bean is the annual crop most commonly associated with banana. The two crops are compatible in a multi-story system as bean does not compete with banana above ground and is more shade tolerant than most other food crops.
Maize and sweet potatoes are intercropped with the young banana plants and are phased out at canopy closure.
Fruit trees like jack fruit and papaw are established with the plantation as sources of fruit.
Water is needed particularly at flowering. Therefore, in drier areas supplemental irrigation may be necessary during this time. Some farmers are practicing 8drib/overhead irrigation methods. An overhead irrigation system (near the base of the plant)
Bananas are adversely affected by strong wind. Planting in sheltered positions and in blocks, rather than in strips, is recommended. If planted in blocks, the plants provide each other with some protection against the wind.
Skin blemishes can ruin the value of the banana bunch. The bract and stem leaves that may rub against the developing fruit need to be removed on a regular basis. The male flower bud is removed after it has grown 15 cm below the last hand. Bagging developing bunches with polythene bags can be done to protect the fruit. The bags can be clear or colored and are perforated to allow air circulation. Bagged fruit develops three to four days earlier.
The time for planting to maturity of a banana depends on area and variety. A plant takes roughly 8 to 12 months to mature. Maturity indices vary widely among varieties. Angularities or fullness of fingers, as well as color change are some of the standard criteria used. Immature bananas are very angular but fill out to a rounded shape at full maturity. Fruits are ready for harvesting 90 – 150 days after fingers start to form. Fingers are considered mature for harvest when they are ¾ round (75% maturity)
Bananas are harvested green at varying stages of maturity depending on market requirement. While harvesting, bunches should never be allowed to fall on the ground after severing from the plant, to avoid fruit damage. For home consumption, the bunch is cut from the stem after fingers begin to turn light green and the edges of the fruit change from angular to round. Bananas harvested at this stage will ripen within one to two week’s time. After harvesting the bunch, the pseudo-stem is cut off with a clean implement at ground level. The cut is covered with soil to avoid easy entry by the banana weevil.
The average yield is 35 to 45 t/ha under good management. The economic lifespan of a banana plantation is 8 to 10 years, after which productivity declines.
Bunches must be handled gently and protected from direct sun. When cutting bunches, padded trays on which the bunch is received should be used. The padding material can be in the form of number of gunny bags or dry banana leaves folded together. Bunches should then be carried carefully on the tray to a central place or a collection shed for grading and packaging. Bunches should be wrapped with protective material (e.g. dry banana leaves) to protect fruits against damage
Harvest when green early in the morning at 6-7am or evening 4-6 to avoid sun scorching.
Banana can be used to make flour, wine, biscuits and other food products.
Tissue culture is a modern technology that is transforming agriculture across the globe. The traditional farming methods often fall short when meeting commercial demands, and farmers are turning to tissue culture for high yielding and uniform crops.
Cultivators using traditional banana farming methods began to encounter issues such as lengthy gestation periods, low yields, excessive flood irrigation leading to high mortality rates, and difficulty propagating disease-free uniform suckers. These challenges could be attributed to a variety of factors, such as a lack of disease-free plants and planting materials, or farmers who have not been exposed to high tech cultivation techniques.
What are the Advantages of Tissue Culture in Banana Plantations?
The uniformity that tissue culture can offer is one of its greatest advantages over the more conventional and traditional farming techniques.
Tissue culture techniques give farmers the opportunity to select genetics they wish to propagate on a mass scale. This can be done with genetic transformation or selection and will usually involve some type of gene preservation. Genetic profiles that have high yields will be able to be mass propagated, and the healthy growth and development in the initial culturing stages will lead to optimal returns.
Tissue culture allows a plant to carry the exact genetic lineage of its mother plant. A well-managed tissue culture operation should have little to no crop variation, allowing genetic lineages to be preserved.
Smoother Field Transition
The tissue culture saplings tend to have a smoother transition into the field. This can be attributed to the healthy root systems they have developed through accelerated growth and nutrition intake.
The planting material will be free of pests, diseases, and viruses. During the culturing process, PPM™ can be added to the media which reduces and prevents microbial contamination.
Uniformity and Consistency
Tissue culture offers uniform crops, while suckers will not carry the genetic profile. This means that the cultured crops will have consistent growth, and harvests will become regular.
Early Crop Maturation
What’s more, the tissue culture process instigates early crop maturation, which means that farmers can make the most of a shorter harvesting period. With this shortened period, farmers will have an increased ability to meet market demands.
Thanks to this early crop maturation, tissue culture offers banana farmers the opportunity to have two successive ratoons, increasing profits and reducing the overall cultivation costs.
If farmers use tissue culture successfully, healthy plants and fruit can be supplied year-round. A high percentage of plants will bear bunches (up to 98% of plants could be successful). These high yielding plants could lead to stabilized profits.
Use of Tissue Culture in Banana Plantations
India has been a leader in tissue-cultured banana plantations. Different banana seedlings are propagated by biotech companies using tissue culture techniques, but the most popular one is the Grand Naine banana species.
South Africa and Limpopo are using tissue culture to cultivate banana clones to ensure vigorous plants that have high yields at the Du Roi laboratory. The process requires sterile environments, which means equipping workers with face masks, gloves, and other tools that contribute to a sterile environment.
The banana tissue culture is sliced and duplicated to create the cultures. The tissues are placed in a gelling agent with the appropriate growth mediums and nutrients administered at the appropriate times. The strict observation of these procedures leads to healthy and vigorous crops.
According to the Southern African laboratory’s general manager, the most significant advantage that tissue culture offers is that all the crops and plants are uniform; they follow the same growth timeline and can be harvested at the same times. This simplifies plantation management and can cut down overall costs.
South Africa’s tropical climate means that it can naturally produce healthy bananas. But with a high demand coming in from more than 25 different countries, tissue culture can significantly assist the farmers.
By using tissue culture techniques, the Du Roi laboratory’s exports are 25% in vitro. The in vitro exports can be transported with ease and simplicity, as they are about 2.5 cm in height, and one grower tub can hold 55 plants. The packages are convenient, and this efficiency for the export industry is another advantage offered by tissue culture techniques.
Tissue culture offers banana plantations the opportunity to mass propagate high yielding, disease-free plants. Cultivators can select genes that promote faster growth cycles, high yields, and even more desirable banana shapes. These clones, carrying the precise genetic profiles, will be a uniform crop that farmers can rely on.
SNOW PEAS FARMING
Snow peas is a legume crop. It is a variety of pea eaten whole in its pod while still unripe. Snow peas have the thinner walls of two edible pods variants. This is the major difference between them and closed related garden peas which lacks edible pods. They are sources of vitamin A and C and is eaten as raw, lightly boiled, steamed or as stir fries. As a legume crop, they host beneficial bacterial, rhizobia in their root nodules which fix nitrogen in the soil (mutualistic relationship) and therefore a useful crop to grow inter-cropped with green leafy vegetables that benefit from high nitrogen content in the soil.
SNOW PEAS WORLD DISTRIBUTION
Snow peas are majorly grown in Western Australia, parts of Asia and France. In Africa, the large producers are South Africa, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe while in East Africa Kenya and Uganda are the largest producers. In Kenya, Nyandarua and Transnzoia are largest producers but is well distributed in other parts of Kenya.
SNOW PEAS SOIL REQUIREMENTS
Snow peas requires adequate air circulation to the beneficial nitrogen fixing bacteria that live on the plant root. Constant air supply is ensured by avoiding waterlogged areas and not compressing the soils after planting
Snow peas prefer fertile Sandy loams that drains well, but tolerate most soils except impermeable clay. A P. H level of 6.0-7.5 is preferred. In case of soils with lower P. H, 1kg of HUMIPOWER can be mixed with 50kg fertilizer or manure. This raises the soil P. H since low soil P. H has adverse effects on crops such as;
Toxicity of Aluminum which becomes soluble
Affects nutrient availability
Leaching of Mg, K, and Ca since they become soluble
Lack of nodulation of legumes
They thrive well in cool weather in upper and lower highlands at altitude of between 1500-2600 m above the sea level and temperatures of between 12°c – 20°c with well distributed rainfall of 1500mm-2100mm per year and we’ll drained soils rich in organic matter.
PESTS AND DISEASES
Aphids are very common sap-sucking insects that can cause a lack of plant vigor, distorted growth and often secrete a sticky substance called honeydew which allows the growth of sooty moulds. This Sooty moulds coats the leaves surface blocking stomata which acts as entry for carbon dioxide for photosynthesis hence lack of the crucial process in the plant leading to stunted growth. Aphids also vector many diseases even in other crops.
Aphids are controlled through spraying Kingcode Elite 10ml/20l.
Thrips( Tabaci spp)
Thrips are tiny slender insects with fringed wings. They are sucking pests feeding by puncturing epidermal layers of host tissue resulting in silvering of leaves’ surface.
Control is by use of insecticide; Alonze 3ml/20l.
Pea weevil ( Bruchus pisorum)
These are small, black to brownish insects with a white zigzag running across the back.
The pea larvae hatch and burrow into the pods and feed on the developing peas.
They can be controlled by use of insecticide; Pentagon 10ml/20l.
Cutworms (Agrarian segetum)
Cutworms are more larvae that hind under the litter or soil during the day, coming out at the dark to feed on the plant. The larvae attacks the crop at the stem base by cutting it down hence the name ‘cutworm’.
Control is done by drenching with Pentagon 20ml/20l.
Damping off and root rot
It is caused by a number of pathogens such as pythium and rhizoctonia. It is exacerbated by cool wet soils. Seeds becomes soft and rolled while seedling fall due to sunken lesion. Older seedlings develop root rot when peas are planted in overly wet soils.
Foliage becomes brown
Roots becomes brown
Seedling attached by damping off
In addition to use of certified seeds a drench of Pyramid 700 WP 100g/20l is used to control damping off.
It is caused by Peronospora viciae. The disease survives in soils and on plant debris. It can also be seed borne. The disease develops quickly in cold conditions (5°-15°c) and wet for 4 -5 days. This often happens when seedlings are in early vegetative stages. Rainfall is the major method of spores dispersal and Secondary infection.
The underside of leaves are covered with a fluffy mouse grey spore mass.
Sickly yellowing green appearance
Deformation of pods covered with yellow and brownish areas.
Downy mildew in snow peas.
In addition to use of certified seeds, a fungicide, Gearlock turbo 25g/20l can be sprayed to control the disease.
It is caused by Erysiphe pisi. Unlike downy mildew, it is prevalent in days of warm weather.
Covering of infected Plants with white powdery film.
Severely affected leaves turns blue-white in color.
Powdery mildew in snow peas leaves.
In addition to seed treatment and crop rotation, fungicides such as Chariot 20ml/ 20l or Ransom 10g / 20l is sprayed to the affected crop to eradicate the disease.
Nutrition or fertilizer application is determined by soil analysis. However, Up to 10 tons of farm yard manure should be applied. Applications of DAP fertilizer at a rate of 250kg per ha at sowing time and again after one month is recommended for root growth. At flowering stage the plants should be dressed with CAN at a rate of 200kg per ha. All fertilizer applied should be mixed well with soil.
Avoid excess nitrogen which will promote vegetative growth at the expense of growth of pods. Hand weeding is recommended since the crop has shallow roots and care must be taken not to injure the roots. Alternatively, after using DAP in sowing GATIT RANGE can be used in subsequent fertilizer spraying.
Harvesting of snow peas is determined by horticultural harvesting index rather than maturity index. They are harvested when pods start to fatten, but before peas get too large. For best flavor, cook or freeze peas within a few hours of picking.
MARKETING AND ITS CHALLENGES
Snow peas farming is a relatively new introduction in Kenya and despite its relatively unsung tales of success in the media-space its high returns combined with a fast growing market make it an irresistible investment venture.
One requires about 10 Kilograms of seeds per acre. Given that each kilo of seeds goes for Kshs 600 then the minimum investment in seeds alone will cost you about Kshs 6, 000.
On top of the cost of buying certified seeds one will need to add an extra Kshs 4, 200 for fertilizer (DAP and CAN), agro-chemicals (Ksh15,000) and sticks/stoppers (Ksh5,000).
An acre piece of land can produce 400Kgs of fresh snow peas per week and harvesting can be done once per week for 13 weeks or more.
Each kilo goes for Ksh150 at the current market price. Now assuming your farm produces 400Kgs per week we multiply that by 13 weeks to get 5200Kgs. That is an equivalent of Kshs 780, 000.
It is possible to recover the initial investment within just 12 weeks (or 3 months) of starting the farm!
How Much You Need To Invest? Kshs100, 300 per acre (minimum)
How Much You Can Harvest: Kshs 780, 000 per acre over 13 weeks
Where to Sell?
Snow peas are not widely eaten here in Kenya and as such you will need to target the export market. One doesn’t need to worry about exporting the produce himself either.
All what is needed to do is approach local vegetable exporters among them Homegrown Kenya Ltd, Idu Farm, Wamu Enterprises, Everest Enterprises and Kenya Horticultural Exporters Ltd (K.H.E).
One doesn’t need to be a “big fish” to succeed in snow peas farming in Kenya. All what is needed is to find a good piece of land, invest in high quality seeds and use approved agro-chemicals.
With ksh100, 000 or thereabout and wondering which business to start with it, don’t be fooled to invest in pyramid schemes.
One can invest in snow peas farming today and 24 months down the line can be a notable horticulture exporter – creating jobs.
Feed Africa Initiative works with small holder farmers, agribusiness institutions, county, national and international agricultural agencies to address the problem of food insecurity in Kenya and entire Africa.