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Banana (Musa spp)
French: Banane; Spanish: Plátano, Banano; Italian: Banana; German: Banane

Crop data

Permanent crop with a succession of herbaceous generations by vegetative sprouting. Mostly triploid.
Harvested part: fruit (consumed either raw or cooked according to the cultivar; plantains form a specific group within the cooking cultivars). Leaf blades are frequently used as wrapping material, especially in Asia.
Plantations are renewed every 3-5, 10 or 30 years according to region and cropping system.
Planting material: corms, corm pieces or suckers (tissue-cultured plantlets are becoming increasingly used for intensive cropping).

Plant density:

- for the Cavendish group of sweet bananas (which account for nearly all international trade), 1 400 - 3 500/ha, according to sunshine, cultivar, cropping technique and marketing constraints such as the premium paid for larger-sized individual fruits. With intensive mechanization and/or very high plant densities, in widely spaced single or double rows closely planted within the row; otherwise evenly spaced square or rectangular planting.
- for all other types, 900 - 1 600/ha (exceptionally up to 2 500/ha).
(All figures for single-follower de-suckering technique).

Flowering (plant crop):

- Cavendish group, 5-10 months after planting, depending on planting material, climate, irrigation, cultivar and fertilizer use;
- other types, a shorter interval for a few small-sized diploids and longer for plantains etc;
- (ratoon crop): interval after harvest of previous crop is less than for plant crop but varies with de-suckering technique.

Time from flowering to harvest: 80-180 days for both plant and ratoon crops, depending mainly on climate ("heat sum").
Thus, for the Cavendish group the interval between successive harvests is 7-15 months, depending on climate, cultivar and cropping techniques.
Bananas are grown on many soil types; physical qualities are more important than chemical composition, because the roots are fragile, with a low penetrating power and a great need of oxygen. Preferred pH about 6.0, but successful crops may be obtained down to pH 4.0 without liming, where exchangeable Al is low (peat soils), - or up to pH 8.5 where potential metal deficiencies are well controlled or non-existent. Water requirements are high (150 mm/month) and water absorption capacity is low, so irrigation, of whatever kind (overhead, microjet, drip, etc), should maintain soil moisture within 60-100 % of the range between permanent wilting point and field capacity.

Nutrient demand/uptake/removal

Nutrient removal (harvested fruit, Cavendish group) - Macronutrients

kg/t whole bunches

N

P2O5

K2O

MgO

CaO

S

1.7 ± 0.4

0.45 ± 0.15

6.0 ± 1.0

0.40 ± 0.15

0.30 ± 0.12

0.20 ± 0.05

Figures for other varieties are less well established but differ little from the above.

Nutrient uptake - Macronutrients

Cultivar Source Bunch yield t/ha/cycle Sampling

kg/ha

       

N

P2O5

K2O

MgO

CaO

S

Pisang Assam Joseph, 1971 16 incomplete m.p.(-pulp)

40

18

343

80

45

-

Gros Michel Martin-Prevel et al., 1968 26 whole matts

250

91

1 350

93

308

-

Dwarf Cavendish Martin-Prevel et al., 1962 42 mother plants only

225

55

1 004

27-

122

-

Plantains (3cvs)                  
min. Marchal et al, 1979 32 whole matts

180

49

1 145

58

133

14

max.   48  

226

69

1 625

66

196

20

Popoulou Marchal et al, 1970 44 whole matts

370

108

2 440

114

252

31

Poyo, grand Nain Martin-Prevel et al., 1965-66

Twyford et al., 1973-76

35-57 m.p., aver. Values

250

57

964

100

210

15

Robusta Twyford et al, 1973-76 50 whole matts, extrapolated values

450

309+

2 109+

390+

420+

144

Poyo Martin-Prevel et al., 1968 66 whole matts

450

70

1 500

80-

200

-

Grand Nain Marchal et al, 1979 69 whole matts

293

69

1 325

108

224

29

Americani Marchal et al, 1979 75 whole matts

294

92

1 565

124

266

36

Nanicao Gallo et al, 1972 77 incompl. m.p (- corm, roots)

264

73

1 265

104

224

11

Poyo = Robusta, Valery (giant Cavendish) Grand Nain, Americani, Nanicao (semi-giant Cavendish)

Full références in : Martin-Plevel, 1980, 1987

m .p. := mother plants ; whole plants = mother plants + all existing followers

+ probably overestimated ; - Mg-deficient sites ; Also Cl = 300 kg/ha (Gallo et al., 1972)

Nutrient uptake - Micronutrients

Cultivar Source Bunch yield t/ha/cycle Sampling

kg/ha

       

Fe

Mn

Zn

Cu

B

Mo

Robusta Twyford et al, 1968 - mother plants only

2.7

4.3

0.47

0.18

0.84

-

Poyo Marchal et al, 1971-72 32-57 mother plants only

4-15

4-9

(0.3)

(0.1)

-

-

Robusta Twyford et al, 1973-76 50 whole matts, extrapolated values

4.5

26+

0.61

0.22

0.62

-

Nanicao Gallo et al, 1972 77 incomplete mother plants (- corm, roots)

3.06

6.85

0.36

0.12

0.37

0.0013

Poyo = Robusta ; Nanicao giant (semi-Cavendish)

Full references in : Martin-Prevel, 1980-1987

+ probably overestimated ; Also Na = 4.2 kg/ha ; Al = 2.8 kg/ha (Gallo et al., 1972)

Total uptake in normal conditions is, on the basis of available information:

Total nutrient uptake (normal growth conditions) - Macronutrients

Variety

kg/t whole bunch

 

N

P2O5

K2O

MgO

CaO

S

Cavendish group

4-7

0.9-1.6

18-30

1.2-3.6

3-7.5

0.4-0.8

Other varieties

up to 10

up to 3.5

up to 60

1.2-3.6

up to 12

0.4-0.8

Variations are due to the harvest index (much higher for the Cavendish group than for many other varieties), nutrient status (except nitrogen, the nutrient content of fruit is less affected than that of other plant parts by deficiency or excess) and the de-suckering technique. The figures given are for total net uptake at the harvesting stage: they do not include amounts lost in pruning/de-suckering, or wilting of older leaves, or through leaching by rainfall. Note that roots may account for 5-10 % of the total uptake, and corm 10-12 % (5 % in the case of CaO).

K absorption is largest during bunch growth (hidden and visible); N and P continous uptake from planting (or sucker start) to bunch emergence.

Plant analysis data

The International Reference Sampling (IRS) method, which was agreed at a conference held in the Canary Islands in 1975, requires leaf samples to comprise inner (i.e. closest to the midrib) exact halves of strips taken from both sides of the lamina and at its exact mid-length, from the third youngest fully expanded leaf either at full bunch emission (all female hands and no more than three male hands being visible) or at approximate floral initiation. Because the choice of sample is highly critical, published data and the basis of other sampling methods or where the sampling method is not clearly stated should be treated with great caution and tested against IRS data by the user to obtain conversion tables.

Unfortunately, not enough experience has been accumulated with the IRS method to be able to assess definitely all its standards. The table below includes, in italics, some non-IRS data where sufficient information was available for conversion to be practicable, and, in parenthesis, values expressed as mere orders of magnitude where such conversion was not possible.

Leaf analysis standards (International Reference Sample - IRS) - Macronutrients

Plant growth stage Nutritional status

% of dry matter

   

N

P

K*

Mg*

Ca*

S

Cl

Around flower initiation Deficient (symptoms)

<2.3

0.12

1.9

0.15-0.24

0.4(°)

0.21

-

  Low

2.3-3.3

0.13

<4.5

0.25-0.29

-

0.21-0.25

-

  Optimum

3.3-3.7

>0.14

4.5-5.0

0.30-0.40

0.8-1.3

>0.25

(1.0)

  High (luxury)

>3.7

-

>5.0

>0.40

>1.3

-

(2.0)

  Excess (toxicity)

-

0.3

5.5-6.5

-

-

-

(3.5)

Just fully expanded bunch Deficient (symptoms)

1.6-2.1

-

1.3-2.6

0.07-0.25

0.15

-

-

  Low

2.0-2.5

0.12-0.16

2.7-3.2

-

-

-

-

  Optimum

2.7-3.6

0.16-0.27

3.2-5.4

0.27-0.60

0.66-1.20

0.16-0.30

0.9-1.8

  High (luxury)

-

-

-

-

-

-

>2.0

  Excess (toxicity)

-

-

-

-

-

-

3.5

* K:Mg:Ca and K:N equilibria also to be considered.
Optimum for K:Mg:Ca in gramm-equivalents = 52-60:16-25:2-29.
(°) Up to 0.7 for first cycle issured from big corms
Italics: recalculated from non-IRS results (Martin-Prevel, 1987, and internal reports by IRFA/CIRAD)
Normal: figures used by J. Marchal for current practice by IRFA/CIRAD
Between brackets:order of magnitude (acc. Lahav and Turner, 1983, and Soto, 1985)

Leaf analysis standards (International Reference Sample - IRS) - Micronutrients

Plant growth stage Nutritional status

ppm dry matter

   

Fe

Mn

Zn

Cu

B

Na

Around flower initiation Deficient (symptoms)

77

25-100

14-(°)37

-

-

-

  Low

-

110-150

-

-

-

<100

  Optimum

>100

160-2 500

>20

(9)

(11)

-

  High (luxury)

-

>2 500

-

-

-

>100

  Excess (toxicity)

300

>4 800

-

-

-

>300

Just fully expanded bunch Deficient (symptoms)

-

40-150

6-17

<5?

<10?

-

  Low

-

-

-

-

-

< 60

  Optimum

80-360

200-1 800

20-50

6-30

10-25

-

  High (luxury)

-

2 000-3 000

-

-

-

>150

  Excess (toxicity)

-

>3 000

-

-

30-100

up to 3 500

P/Zn ratio (high in case of Zn deficiency) to be preferably considered
Italics: recalculated from non-IRS results (Martin-Prevel, 1987, and internal reports by IRFA/CIRAD)
Normal: figures used by J. Marchal for current practice by IRFA/CIRAD
Between brackets: order of magnitude (acc. Lahav and Turner, 1983, and Soto, 1985)

Fertilizer recommendations

Whilst N and K should be supplied according to the very high biomass requirements of the crop, attention must be given to maintaining an appropriate soil cationic balance. On most soil types this means (with pH around 6.0) about 80 % CEC saturation by K, Mg and Ca in the approximate proportions 1:3:6. Dressings of dolomite and/or limestone, for incorporation into the soil, should be calculated so as to achieve and maintain these proportions in the top 20 cm of soil. On highly unsaturated soils with a high cation exchange capacity, this may seldom be possible, in which case attention should be given principally to the K:Mg ratio, which should never exceed 1:2 in ferrallitic or sandy soils or 1:1 in volcanic or organic soils. The level of exchangeable K should preferably be raised to about 10 % of the total exchangeable cations by a basal application in the first year and subsequently maintained by dressings calculated to compensate for removals and leaching losses.

The amounts of N and K2O to be given to a plant crop should be calculated from the expected yield on a particular field and the total uptake per metric ton of whole bunches as quoted earlier. N application should be split into a number of dressings so as to provide a continuous supply from planting right through to harvest, with smaller and more frequent dressings where the risk of loss by leaching is higher (Godefroy et al, 1989), ranging from intervals of 1-3 months in relatively dry climates down to every 2-4 weeks in the humid tropics with suitable modification in seasons of high growth potential or in seasons affected by cold or drought. Subject to the demands of maintaining a correct cationic balance, the K application is generally divided in a rather similar manner to that of N except that dressings should be smaller at the beginning of the growth period and increased during the months immediately before and after flowering.

Similar calculations may be made for ratoon crops, making due allowance for the large losses resulting from chopping down the mother plants, and the more rapid growth during a shorter time period. In practice, the same average monthly rates as for the plant crop are generally adopted.

Preferred nutrient forms

Given adequate S, the cheapest forms of N and K fertilizers available may be used. Potassium nitrate, although acceptable in theory, is scarcely ever used except in irrigation water, due to its high cost and liability to loss by leaching. Where there is a need for added S, this can be given either in the form of a sulphate-based N fertilizer or, preferably on acid soils, potassium sulphate, so that S would account for 3-5 % of the total input unless abundant organic manure is used. Double K-Mg sulphates (Patentkali, etc) are useful where Mg deficiency is incipient. The preferred form of P depends on soil pH and P-fixation capacity. Where appropriate, rock phosphates can contribute, with lime and/or dolomite, towards CEC saturation; and low-P compound fertilizers are convenient except on soils where P-fixation capacity is high.

Present fertilizer practices

Departures from recommended usage often result in low yields, through under-use, or in poor quality and uneconomic production due to imbalanced or over-use or incorrect timing.

Organic manures are excellent for improving soil conditions and provide variable amounts of macronutrients, which must be taken into account if imbalances are to be avoided; they may also supply all the micronutrients needed. Cattle or chicken manures, at rates of 35-120 t/ha, are widely used in some countries, and in others, residues such as coffee pulp, cacao shells and composted town refuse, while copious mulching with grasses or branches has been common practice for decades in many regions. Where high yields are obtained by using only mineral fertilizers, the soil organic matter content can be improved by returning around 200 t/ha/year of plant residues, but care must be taken to ensure that adequate amounts of all macro- and micronutrients are provided.

N fertilizer is used almost everywhere unless abundant organic manure is applied; but even with abundant manure application K fertilizer must also be given except on volcanic soils containing very high reserves. Mg is considered the third most important nutrient, whether incorporated in a soil amendment or broadcast as a straight fertilizer (Epsom salts or kieserite) or in mixed or compound fertilizers.

Most fertilizers are hand-spread except when basal dressings are incorporated during land preparation. However, there is considerable controversy over the best method of placement. With good control of nematodes and soil aeration, an even broadcast would appear more logical, but applications in practice are often concentrated within a circle of 1.0-1.5 m diameter around the pseudo-stem, or (after flowering) in a crescent shape around the daughter plants. In mechanized fields the fertilizers are often spread along the rows.

Foliar feeding is efficient with the right nutrients and wetting agents. It is preferably used successfully for micronutrients, especially when they can be mixed with the aerial oil-fungicide sprays regularly applied against Sigatoka disease in tropical climates. Rates of 5-10 kg/ha Zn, B or Mn (in descending order of importance) applied in this way once to three times a year are sufficient, instead of soil applications of 20 kg/ha or more which are often ineffective because of blocking antagonisms.

Some individual growers apply amounts up to 1 200 kg/ha N, 800 kg/ha P2O5, 1 800 kg/ha K2O yearly, but the most common practices for Cavendish cultivars in various countries are summarised in the following table. The higher figures correspond broadly with the highest yields. The less productive stands, whether of Cavendish or other cultivars, receive less fertilizer but are less profitable.

Present fertilizer practices for "Cavendish" cultivars with good average yields unless differently stated

Region/Country

kg/ha/year

Other elements - Remarks (kg respect. t/ha)
 

N

P2O5

K2O

 
Africa
Cameroon

140-400

0

0-(800)

no K necessary on young volcanic soils, fertilizers must contain S
Cote d'Ivoire        
- peat soils

100-330

30-100

700-1600

5-10 Cu, 500-2 000 dolomite
- other soils

300-500

30-100

600-1200

500- 2000 dolomite
South Africa

140-500

0-100

750-1600

organic manure 0-120 tons
Canary Is.        
- drip irrigat.

500-600

200-300

700-1000

organic or plastic mulch
- surf. irrigat.

600-800

300-450

900-1500

organic mulch
Morocco, greenhouses

440-750

0-285

800-1600

10-25 Mn, 0-200 MgO, 0-150 S manure
Egypt

380-2 500

55-300

0-950

org. manure - low yields without K
Middle East, Asia, Oceania
Israel        
- coastal plain

400

200

1440

organic manure (*)
- Jordan valley

400

90

0

org. manure - no K necessary (*)
India

300-600

320-345

340-720

organic manure (*)
Taiwan

400

115

900

(*)
Australia        
- N Territories

110

230

760

(*)
- Queensland

280-370

160-460

480-1560

(*)
- N.S. Wales

180

90-230

360- 720

(*)
Latin America and Caribbean
Brazil        
- Sao Paulo

250-500

125-240

500-950

 
- other states

0- 80

0- 50

0-120

not "Cavendish", yield 5-20 t/ha
Costa Rica

300-450

0-160

600-750

50-200 MgO, 500-600 CaO
Honduras

290

0

0

no K necessary on most soils (*)
Martinique, Guadeloupe        
- andosoils andrecent pumices

300-700

0-180

800-1350

80-270 MgO, 150-400 CaO
- other soils

250-600

0-150

600-1600

CaO according to soil analysis
Jamaica

225

150

560

(*)
Sources: (*) Lahav and Turner, 1983 - Others: personal records and IRFA/CIRAD reports

Further reading

GODEFROY, J.; MARCHAL, J.; NAVILLE, R.: Fertilisation des cultures fruitières en Afrique intertropicale. Fruits 40 (5), 327-344 (1985)

LAHAV E.; TURNER, D.: Banana Nutrition. Internat. Potash Inst., Berne, Switzerland (1983)

MARTIN-PREVEL, P.: La nutrition minérale du bananier dans le monde. Fruits 35 (9), 503-518+,nd (10), 583-593 (1980)

MARTIN-PREVEL, P.: Banana. In MARTIN-PREVEL, P.; GAGNARD, J.; GAUTIER, P. (eds.), Plant Analysis as a Guide to the Nutrient Requirements of Temperate and Tropical Crops. Ed. Lavoisier, New York-Paris (1987)

SOTO, M.: Bananos. Univ. Costa Rica, San José (1985)


Author: P. Martin-Prevel, Institut de Recherches sur les Fruits et Agrumes (IRFA), Centre de Recherches CIRAD de Montpellier, Montpellier, France


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