Banana farming is the cultivation of the banana crop for consumption and industrial use.
The fruit varies in size, colour, and firmness, but is usually elongated and curved, with a soft flesh rich in starch and covered with a rind, which may be green, yellow, red, purple, or brown when ripe.(startuptipsdaily.com)
According to Wikipedia, Banana is the 4th largest agricultural product in the world following wheat, rice and corn. In 2016, world production of bananas and plantains was 148 million tonnes, led by India and China.
The industry exports worldwide total over 100 million tons in a market which generates over US$ 5 billion per year and employs millions of workers.
With a wide spread demand for the crop, Banana farming in Nigeria is growing at a fast pace.
Starting a Banana Farm Business in Nigeria
There are so many people who would like to go into banana farming business in Nigeria as it is now a common trend to have a farm either for food crops, livestock and poultry, because of its high-profit yield.
Banana farming is easy and has less complicated steps but knowing the essential and basic thing you need to do is very important.
Banana farming does not require much capital, much labour or purchase of suckers every time as one banana sucker can last for 2 decades, which makes it one of the best farming businesses that can give you much profit.
HOW TO CULTIVATE BANANA IN NIGERIA
Banana, basically a tropical crop, grows well in a temperature range of 15ºC–35ºC with relative humidity of 75-85%.
It prefers tropical humid lowlands and is grown from the sea level to an elevation of 2000m. above m.s.l.. High velocity of wind which exceeds 80 km /hr. damages the crop.
Four months of monsoon (June to September) with an average 650-750 mm. rainfall are most important for vigorous vegetative growth of banana.
Conditions necessary for high banana yield
Deep, rich loamy soil with pH between 6.5 –7.5 is most preferred for banana farming. Avoid soil of low laying areas, very sandy and heavy black cotton with ill drainage. Soil for banana should have good drainage, adequate fertility and moisture. Saline solid, poorly aerated, calcareous soils are not suitable for banana cultivation.
A soil which is neither too acidic nor too alkaline, rich in organic material with high nitrogen content, adequate phosphorus level and plenty of potash should be used for planting (Banana Link, n.d.). The banana is a perennial plant that replaces itself.
Bananas do not grow from a seed but from a bulb or rhizome, and it takes 9 to 12 months from sowing a banana bulb to harvesting the fruit. The banana flower appears in the sixth or seventh month. Unlike other fruits like apples which have a growing season, bananas are available all year round.
Banana plants thrive in tropical regions where the average temperature is 80° F (27° C) and the yearly rainfall is between 78 and 98 inches. Most bananas exported are grown within 30 degrees either side of the equator.
Banana plantations are predominantly found in Latin America. They require huge investment in infrastructure and technology for transport, irrigation, drainage and packing facilities.
On the other hand, in the Eastern Caribbean, farmers tend to use smallholder production. This system is less capital intensive and more labour intensive.
Growing bananas is, in general, labour intensive. It involves clearing jungle growth, propping of the plants to counter bending from the weight of the growing fruit, and irrigation in some regions. As well as an intensive use of pesticides, the conventional production process involves covering banana bunches with polyethylene bags to protect them from wind, insect and bird attacks, and to maintain optimum temperatures. (AgriFarming, 2018)
A banana plantation may last a long time. But if you want good harvests, if you want to till the soil well, you must dig up the plantation after 7 to 10 years. When you have dug up the banana plants, let the ground lie fallow for 2 years.
Plant a legume such as Calopogonium, Pueraria or Stylosanthes. After 2 years, dig in the legumes as green manure. You can then plant bananas again. In Ivory Coast, in commercial plantations, bananas are dug up after cutting three bunches of fruit on each plant. The replanting is done immediately.
Traditional plantations are short-lived, for instance, 5 years in Cameroon, 2 to 4 years in equatorial Africa and Zaire. In these plantations other food crops are grown along with the bananas, such as tania in southern Cameroon.
In Zaire, attempts have been made to grow banana plants and rubber trees together, and bananas and oil palm. Rubber trees and oil palms do not come into production quickly. Between the rows of these trees, bananas are planted; they do produce a crop quickly and the planter earns some money while he is waiting to harvest latex and fruit clusters.
When you make a cocoa plantation, plant a banana sucker beside each cocoa tree. The banana will provide shade for the young cocoa tree.
Preparing the ground and making the plantation
For a good plantation, you must:
1. Prepare the soil well, make planting holes in rows and do the planting well.
2. Clear the ground, cut up the trees, stack them and burn them. Some ground is too wet; the water prevents the roots from developing. Soil like this must be drained to get rid of the water.
3. Make ditches every 15 metres in the direction of the slope. Dig a big central ditch that will carry away all the water. Make ditches on each side of the plantation.
4. Push pieces of wood into the ground, in rows, to mark the spots where a banana plant is to be grown. The distance between the banana plants varies with the variety and the method of growing them.
Plantations that are replanted every 3 or 4 years are planted closely. Plantations that are replanted every 10 years are planted at a lower density. For example: In southern Ivory Coast, Poyo bananas are planted 2 metres apart in rows that are 2 metres apart. This gives about 2 500 banana plants to the hectare.
In Cameroon Gros Michel bananas are planted 2.85 metres apart in rows 2.85 metres apart. In plantations where bananas are grown with other crops, bananas may be planted 5 metres apart in rows 5 metres apart. One or two months before planting, make a hole at the places where the pieces of wood were stuck in the ground. Make the holes 60 centimetres on one side and the soil from the bottom on the other side. Fill the holes with compost and manure.
Bananas dislike wind. To shelter them, plant bamboos on the edges of the plantation. These bamboos will also provide stakes for the bananas. For planting, use suckers. Take them from banana plants that are between 3 and 6 years old.
These suckers should be between 50 centimetres and 1 metre high and broad at the base. Let them dry in the shade for 3 or 4 days before planting them. Just before planting them, trim them at a point 50 centimetres from the base of the plant and dip them in water in which potassium permanganate is mixed.
Plant at the end of the dry season, so that roots grow before the rainy season begins, and the suckers do not rot. Two months earlier, you made the planting holes. You separate the soil at the bottom from the soil at the top. You put compost in the holes.
At planting time, take the compost out of the holes. Put the soil from the top into the bottom of the hole, place the sucker in the earth. The base of the sucker is now 10 centimetres from the surface of the ground. Put compost round the young plant. Put the bottom soil on the ground surface (Food and Agriculture Organization, n.d).
Application of technology
The traditional way of growing banana using suckers i.e. the daughters growing at the base of the mother plant that farmers uproot from their own farms or buy from a neighbor is as low method of obtaining planting material and it easily spreads pests and diseases from one farm to another if the suckers are not properly selected and treated.
However, there is a new technology, known as macropropagation, which aims at overcoming these two challenges — it allows the rapid production of pest – free planting material.
In this new procedure, Tharcisse explains, one starts by selecting a vigorous healthy-looking sucker — the type that only has very thin pointed leaves — and using a large knife peels off the dirt and roots.
Next, it is immersed in hot boiling water for 30 seconds to kill any pests. The outer leaf sheaths are then carefully peeled off to expose the meristem — the growing part at the center of the plant.
The meristem is cut into pieces which are then placed in special sterilized chambers lined with transparent polythene sheets for extra warmth, humidity, and light for 15 days during which they will sprout many little plantlets.
These plantlets are carefully detached once they grow 2 to 3 leaves and planted in pots with sterilized soils to acclimatize.
They are ready for field planting after 2 to 3 months. Using this method, a sucker can produce up to 20 plantlets instead of just one. (worldwatch)
Banana farming in Nigeria can be a lucrative and profitable agribusiness because it could provide a year – round income, delivers a relatively quick return on efforts and investment, and the crop recovers quickly from natural disasters.
If you’re looking for an agribusiness to venture into, banana farming could be the one. (startuptipsdaily.com)
Startuptipsdaily.com/How To Start Banana Farming in Nigeria: The Complete Guide CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture & FoodSecurity (CCAFS) blogs.worldwatch.com/nourishingtheplanet
Banana Farming info Guide for Beginners. Retrieved from http://www.bananalink.org.uk/how-bananas-are-grown.
AgriFarming (2018). Banana Farming info Guide for Beginners. Retrieved from http://www.agrifarming.in/banana-farming/ Last updated 2018.
Food and Agriculture Organization (undated). How to grow Bananas. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/t0308e/T0308E04.htm#ch4