The banana is an herbaceous plant belonging to the genus Musa that grows naturally in the tropics, where the height of the plant ranges between 2 and 9 meters. Its stem is solid, consisting of bases of coiled leaves with leaves arranged spirally at the top. The leaves are large and wide, up to 3 meters long, and 0.5 to 0.7 meters wide.
Banana seedlings can live up to 25 years if properly cared for. The most important banana producers in the world are Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, India, China, Brazil, the Philippines, and Ecuador.
Banana cultivation in Lebanon
Banana cultivation was introduced to Lebanon in the mid-forties of the last century, and it was planted in the southern regions first and then extended north to the coast of Byblos. It is worth noting that the climate in Lebanon is not very suitable for this cultivation due to the tropical nature of bananas which requires hot and humid conditions. This explains the success of its cultivation in very specific Lebanese areas.
Banana cultivation has developed rapidly in Lebanon. At the beginning of the nineties of the last century, it witnessed a qualitative development, as cultivation spread under greenhouses or nets or by planting production carriers in many open agricultural fields.
New varieties extracted from mother plant tissues are now sourced from pertinent research centers in Spain, South Africa, and some Latin American countries.
This cultivation, characterized by its resistance to relatively cold climates, has grabbed the attention of many Lebanese farmers, especially in the south. The latter have adopted Banana as an alternative to citrus which is subject to many problems such as traditional varieties and methods of production and marketing.
The Traditional Method
Farmers adopt different sources of new seedlings in order to plant their fields. The most prominent of these methods is the removal of young seedlings growing on the mother plant. The height of these seedlings varies between a meter and a meter and a half, and they are usually planted in the spring, specifically during the month of April.
Among the advantages of this method is the ease of seedlings obtaining at low prices, in addition to the control of appropriate planting time.
As for the disadvantages, they are numerous:
– Seedlings bear the characteristics of their mother, which may carry fungal, bacterial, and even viral diseases, insects, and nematodes.
– Not obtaining new varieties and sticking to traditional ones that have been in the fields for decades. This prevents farmers from increasing productivity and obtaining new varieties that have changed according to market requirements.
The Modern Method
This method is based on the cultivation of seedlings extracted from meristematic plant tissue. The first requirement of this method is to provide a suitable source of plant tissue used for propagation. This mother plant should bear the characteristics desired in its offspring.
First, the terminal apex of the mother plant is separated and disinfected, and the meristem is isolated. This tissue is then placed in special containers that meet the necessary growth requirements of nutrients and active materials and kept inside special incubators where the environmental conditions such as heat, humidity, and lighting are modified.
Within the incubators, new, fully formed genetic individuals are formed. These embryos are separated and transferred to suitable vessels to be taken out of the lab to nurseries where they remain for two months.
What are the characteristics of this method?
- Meristematic propagation is a modern and effective method by which large numbers of plants are produced in a limited space
- Matching the newly developed plants in their characteristics, characteristics, and behavior to the mother plant selected
- Plants are free from diseases and pests.
- Homogeneity of growth inside the nursery prepared for cultivation.
- The speed of growth after planting in the field, while maintaining homogeneity in it, which ensures to a large extent the uniformity of flowering dates and harvesting of the crop.
- Full production is achieved on the farm in the first year of cultivation, while it begins to be achieved in conventional cultivation starting the second and third years.
Source Crop Gene Bank Knowledge Base
How to manage seedlings derived from Meristem Production?
The soil arranged for seedlings is prepared in plastic bags of a capacity of 1 1/2 liters as follows:
- 1/3 of the mixture consists of peat moss;
- 2/3 of red sandy soil.
– The proportions between the two types are equalized with the addition of 2 kilos of compound fertilizer 12 11 18 and 2 kilos of ITALPOLINA organic fertilizer per cubic meter of the mixture.
The bags are then placed in planting greenhouses that are:
- Shaded with netting and covered with plastic
- Equipped with sprinklers for spray irrigation
- Equipped with temperature and humidity measuring devices
The next step is to plant the seedlings in the bags, where the height of the seedling ranges between 10 and 15 cm. The fertilization process begins a week after planting as follows:
- 20 grams per unit plant of phosphate fertilizer and once or twice
- 20 grams per plant balanced fertilizer Protheo 20.20.20 times a week
- 10 grams of one-time Calcinit fertilizer
- Dosage of Protheo Fer and Tracel BZ
- 3 doses of HumiK during the period of rearing
- 2 doses of Novotrete to provide the seedlings with the required immunity.
- 2 doses of Prevent, the first immediately after planting, and the second in the middle of the breeding period to prevent wilt diseases.
- Spray foliar nutrients two weeks after planting date
- Spray the plant with insecticides once every 15 days to eliminate aphids in particular.
It is necessary to monitor the shape and growth trend of the plant during this period and to exclude the units that show divergence in shape, color, and length of the leaves, as this type of seedling represents non-conforming mutations of the variety.
After 8 weeks from the date of planting, the plastic cover is lifted and the cultivation is termed summer cultivation, where the seedlings are usually planted in late spring.
The duration of the plant incubation period under greenhouses ranges between 60 to 75 days and the seedlings reach about 50 cm in height. At this stage, they are ready to transplant into the field.
How are banana seedlings transplanted into the field? What are the best ways of fertilization to reach optimal productivity? We answer all these questions in the second part. Follow us.
Eng. I. Younes