Mar 7 - 13, 2011

Banana belongs to Musaceae family. It is a tropical fruit and propagated vegetatively through suckers. Bananas are staple fruit of many tropical countries in the temperate markets of North, Central and South America, Europe and Northeast Asia.

Currently, it is a most popular fruit in the world and cultivated over 130 countries. It ranks a close fourth after rice, wheat, and maize in terms of human consumption. The plant requires a tropical climate within the temperature ranging 50 105oC and a constant supply of moisture by rainfall or irrigation.

The banana must rank as one of the most useful plants known to human beings. It looks like a fruit-bearing tree, springs out from an underground stem, known as a rhizome, which goes to three to seven meters high at maturity. The shoots from the rhizomes are used for propagation. It is a palm like aspect and has very large leaves.

Bananas generally thrive best on deep, loose, well-drained soils in humid tropical climates and they are easily cultivated with simple irrigation techniques in semi-arid regions. Within eight to fifteen months of planting, a large flower spike, bearing numerous reddish petals, emerges at the top of the trunk and hangs downwards having bunch, containing nearly 50 to 150 fruits. Bunches of bananas consist of eight to nine hands or even more, which generally weigh 22-65 kg. Three hundred or more such bunches may be produced annually on one acre of land.

The banana is a very popular fruit in Pakistan. The cultivation of banana plant in Pakistan is carried out in an area of 31,000 hetares with a production of 190.7 million tons in 2008-09.

Sindh is the main contributors in terms of area (27.5 x 103 hectares) with a production of 145.7 m tons. This crop is also cultivated in Punjab, NWFP, and Balochistan. Among all the varieties, the Cavendish, locally known as Basrai gave the most outstanding results and was released for general cultivation. Presently, Cavendish variety holds almost over 90 per cent of banana plantation in Sindh. But unfortunately, this crop was invaded by an exotic disease at Thatta a decade before, which was identified as the Banana Bunchy Top Virus (BBTV). Reportedly, this blight destroyed almost 60 per cent banana acerage in the districts of Thatta, Badin, Hyderabad, and Sanghar within four years, causing loss of almost 80-90 per cent in production and 70 per cent in the annual yield. Infected plants did not produce fruit bunch. The gravity of the situation could be gauged from the fact that the banana growers having standing acerage decided to stop further cultivation. The Cavendish variety was severely affected by the BBTD. Banana cultivation has potentials to provide employment to tens of thousands of farm workers to rural Sindh, besides creating job opportunities for thousands of urban/rural contractors, transporters, commission agents, whole-sellers, and retailers.

Banana is grown over many soil types, and it is a crop of five-six months duration. Well-drained and fertile soil is necessary for a profitable cultivation of banana. The banana crop needs sufficient quantity of NPK fertilizers. On a per acre basis, 5 bags of urea, 3 bags of DAP and 4-5 bags of sulphate of potash is needed, which produced about 450 mounds of banana fruit. The potash requirement of banana is high. Therefore, at flowering and fruiting stage, sufficient quantity of application of potash is necessary. However, balanced and right combinations of NPK fertilizers is necessary for increasing and taking a healthy banana fruit. This will definitely fetch a good amount from the market. Application of organic manures is also essential for maintaining fertility status of the soil. Banana, from the farmer's point of view, is a regular cash flow fruit throughout the year.

Bananas are subject to mechanical injury by the strong winds, which tear the leaves or blow down completely the plants. The rhizome or tree stem remains in the underground. Near the tip of the flower, the stalks are with several groups of sterile male flowers subtended by brilliant purple bracts. The lower female flower clusters on the same stalk give rise to the fruit and contain aborted stamens (male organs). The single fruits are called fingers, a single group of 8-12 fingers and the several 6-18 hands of the whole inflorescence make up the stem. Later, the whole system of fruits developed into a heavy bunch. The fruit bunch requires generally 75-100 days to mature and this must be removed from the plant to ripe properly on the ground.

The fully ripened banana fruit contains as much as 22 per cent carbohydrate and is high in potassium, low in protein and fat and good source of vitamins A and C. Green fruit is also eaten as curry with rice and bread in many far eastern countries. The green leaves are used for decorative purposes in many Asian countries. The plants are cut down completely to harvest the fruit, since they bear only once.

The banana fruit is a stable food in the tropics and is used in many forms, raw or cooked. There are many 220 diseases of bananas in the tropics. The diseases have great effect on the production of banana. Therefore, it is necessary to cure the diseases in order to get substantial yield of banana.