Organic Cultivation of Banana

Climate and Soil
This tropical crop is grown throughout the year under humid weather condition. The optimum temperature suitable for banana ranges between 25-30 0 C. The plant prefers a soil pH of 5.5-7.5. Almost all the agricultural soils are suitable, provided they are deep well drained. Black loams and sandy loam soils of uplands are most suited.                            

Land preparation
The land is prepared by ploughing twice and harrowing thrice. Levelling is done by tractor after harrowing. Ridges and furrows are made and the pits ( 30 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm) are dug and filled up with well decomposed FYM/compost. The pits are irrigated to allow the soil to settle.                            

Varieties
The varieties grown in Maharashtra under organic cultivation are Dwarf Cavendish, Grand Naine, Sreemanthi and Basrai.                           

Planting material
The banana is propagated by suckers and rhizomes. However, tissue cultured plantlets are also being used on a large scale nowadays. These tissue cultured plantlets enable early harvesting in 11-12 months after planting.                            

Planting and infilling
The time of planting of banana depends solely on climatic conditions and availability of water. In areas of heavy and continuous rains, planting of banana should be done after rains i.e. September - October and in those areas where rains are not so heavy planting can be done in June-July. In Irrigated areas the planting is done in February - March and in hilly areas in April. The planting material is treated with a solution of 250 g of ghee, 0.500 g of honey and 15 kg of cowdung. The spacing adopted by organic banana cultivators in Maharashtra are 1.5 m x 1.5 m and 1.5 m x 1.8 m. However for tissue cultured banana, a spacing of 1.5 m x 1.8 m accomodating a plant population of 4400 plants/ha is considered for working out the cost of this model scheme.

Intercropping
Onion, soyabean and cowpea can be grown as intercrop in Banana by planting on raised bed which will give additional income. Growing intercrops like cowpea and soyabean also helps in suppressing weed growth. In preparation of model scheme, the income and expenditure for intercropping is not considered.                           

Manuring
15 t of FYM/compost is applied at the time of land preparation. After plantation, the manuring is done by applying 5 kg FYM, 2 Kg Bhumilab, 20 g trichoderma and 30-50 ml humus per plant in first year and FYM @ 10 kg, Bhumilab @ 2.5 - 3 kg per plant during subsequent two years. The spraying of Gomutra (Cow urine) and Jeevamrut is also taken up. The jeevamrut is prepared by adding 10 kg cowdung, 5 l of cow urine, 2 kg black jaggery, 2 kg ground pulses powder, handful of bund soil in 200 l of water, the solution is kept for 2 to 7 days in shade for fermentation. During the fermentation, the solution is stirred on daily. Biofertilizers like Azatobacter(20 g/plant), Phosphate Solubilizing bacteria (PSB) (20 g/plant) and EM solution at the rate of 1 l per acre. The EM (Effective Microorganisms) solution is prepared by adding 1 l EM, 2 kg black jaggery, 50 g salt mixed in a drum of suitable size.                            

Irrigation
The plants need to be irrigated immediately after planting. About 30-40 weekly irrigations are required. When summer temperature crosses 37.5 0C, irrigation on every 3rd day is essential. Inadequate irrigation to banana leads to delayed flowering, irregular bunch size, delayed maturity, reduced fingers and poor keeping quality of the fruits. The drip system of irrigation is being followed in most of the organic banana cultivation in Maharashtra. In this model scheme, the cost of installation of drip is not considered.                            

Interculture operations                           

Propping
Propping or supporting the bearing plants can be done by suitable propping material like bamboo or wooden poles.

Mulching
Mulching is desirable immediately after planting. Mulching controls weed growth, conserves moisture, hastens growth and improves yield.                           

Desuckering
All varieties of banana throw suckers from 2-3 months after planting. All these suckers should not be allowed to grow as they will compete with the mother plants for water and nutrients thereby reducing the yield of main crop. Desuckering with sickle at 15-20 days interval right from the beginning till flowering is essential. Wrapping the bunches is essential to have blemish / bruise free fruits with uniform size and quality. For this, black coloured polythene may be used for covering the fruits                           

Other operations

Weeding is done 3-4 times in a year. Trashing is done by removing dried leaves. Earthing up of the soil is required to be carried out two times annually                      

Plant Protection

The major pests and diseases observed in banana crop are rhizome weevil, nematodes, bunchy top, leaf spot, etc. In the case of organic farming, dasparni arka and neem cake are used to control pests and diseases. The dasparni arka, which means mixture of leaves of ten kinds of plants (das=ten, parna=leaf, arka=concentrated form of solution) is prepared by adding 25 kg neem leaves and 2 kg leaves each of custard apple, nirgudi, kaner, cotton, papaya, castor, karanj, gudwel, drumstick in 200 l of water, 5 to 10 l of gomutra & 2 kg of green chillies, the solution is kept for 15-20 days for fermentation. The stock solution is prepared by filtration through muslin cloth. The spraying is done by diluting the arka further by adding 100 l of water to 2.5 l of the arka.

Harvesting                        

The crop gets ready for harvest after 11-12 months of planting. First ratoon crop is ready after 8-10 months from harvesting the main crop and second ratoon after 8 months of harvesting of the first ratoon crop. Thus over the period of 27-30 months, it is possible to harvest three crops i.e. one main crop and two ratoon crops.                         

Yield                         

With the conservative estimate, it is expected that at least 80% of the plants would produce bunches of banana. Accordingly, the yield/ha is estimated as under :-                          

YearIIIIII
No. of plants/ha bearing bunches of fruits (80% of plant population352035203520
Weight/bunch (kg)18.0022.0020.00
Yield (t/ha)63.3677.4470.40