Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Tissue culture bananas growing business in Kenya

Bananas are widely grown in Kenya as a staple food and as an income generating activity by many local communities. Due to a widespread problem of viral diseases, in vitro or tissue culture bananas  propagation has been used by Kenyan researchers to produce disease free growing materials.These  plants are genetically uniform, superior, disease free and high yielding.This leads to increased economic benefits  per unit area of  land. Bananas grow well in a wide range of climate from sea level upto 1800m in humid conditions. Minimum rainfall of 1000mm per year is required especially at the flowering time. Irrigation is therefore essential in low rainfall growing areas. Bananas should be grown on well drained fertile soils, as they cannot withstand water logging. Thorough land preparation should be done during the dry season. Sowing should be carried out at the beginning of the long rains for rain fed crop in Kenya. Dig holes measuring 1M× 1M× 1M and separate the top and subsoils, then mix the top soil with 40kg [2medium buckets] of well rotted manure per planting hole, 200g DAP fertilizer, 15 grams / 3 teaspoonfuls of nematicide.

Fill the hole with the mixture up to 75cm.Plant the seedling 30cm deep into the mixture and firm up the soil. Recommended planting spacing is 3M× 3M for short varieties, 3M 4M for medium varieties and 4M× 4M for tall varieties. For irrigated crop apply 40 litres of water at planting time, then 20 litres 3 times weekly. Apply dry grass mulches for moisture retention and to increase soil organic matter. Ensure a clear space of 15cm from the base of the plant as a precaution against the bananas weevil. Intercropping with leguminous crops such as beans can be done. Sucker management is done by thinning to produce large bunches and increase yields. Thinning is done to leave one bearing stem, one half grown stem and one emerging sword sucker. Vigorously growing sword sucker facing the eastern side should be selected at any one given time. Destroy unwanted suckers using a knife.

Stems bearing heavy bunches of bananas should be supported to avoid breakages and this practice is referred to as staking. De-leafing should be done to remove old diseased leaves from the plant for good growth. The first harvest starts 15-18 months after planting. When the fruit is fully developed it is light green in colour and shiny in appearance. Harvest bunches with care to avoid bruising. For temporary storage keep bunches in a cool storage. When transporting to local markets wrap the bundles in grass or bananas leaves to avoid bruising. De-handing, de-clustering, washing using disinfectant, packaging and branding may be required for export market. Yields of 20-40 tons per year may be attained depending on management. The major pests include bananas weevil, thrips and nematodes. The major diseases in growing of bananas include panama disease and cigar end rot. Control pests and diseases of the plant using suitable measures.