Fertilization being a crucial step in Banana Production, banana trees (or herbaceous plants), or any other organism for that matter, cannot grow without adequate inputs of nutrients. Therefore, this “food” must be integrated at the appropriate times in order not to affect the plant’s health, and avoid production losses in terms of quality or quantity.
In general, Bananas are sensitive to different types of fertilizers, especially Nitrogen and Potassium Nitrate based ones. Therefore, determining the type and quantity to be added is crucial, and depends on several factors such as;
• Quality and fertility of the soil
• Plant’s age and size
• Growth stage in question
• Prevailing environmental conditions.
Three main types of fertilization are identified, and deemed essential pillars to the development of adequate Banana Fertilization programs:
• Organic fertilization
• Macronutrient Inputs
• Micronutrient Inputs
Good coordination between these types would inevitably lead to better and more profitable production.
Though often overlooked, Organic fertilization is highly important, mainly since it enables the reproduction of beneficial soil bacteria, necessary for the success of the metabolic process and the full use of all nutrients added to the soil.
Organic fertilization is generally followed by chemical fertilization, which encompasses the input of Macronutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphate, and potassium. A plant would need such nutrients in large quantities to ensure abundant economic production, in addition to other elements called Micro Nutrients needed in smaller amounts, such as calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Those Micro Elements are necessary to regulate the process of absorbing Macroelements and are needed in smaller quantities. Iron, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, and molybdenum belong to this category of nutrients.
It is worth noting that, increased quantities of Microelements prevent the plant from assimilating other essential elements. For example, increased calcium in the soil hinders the ability of the plant to absorb iron. Similarly, a lack of any of these elements could also hamper the metabolic process, and thus prevent the plant from benefiting from these Micronutrients.
Banana plants are highly sensitive to water and humidity during the growing season, as their roots are thin and close to the soil surface. The plant also has a large leaf area where a large amount of water is lost throughout the day. This explains the high need for water which can be supplied through irrigation. However, water needs depend on the type and nature of the soil, the climate of the region, the age of the plant, and the irrigation system.
The fertilization systems through irrigation or Fertigation are as follows;
- Traditional fertilizers (mixers) and irrigation lines such as GR and D2000
- Use of the injection system (MAZZEI INJECTOR)
- Use of the Dositron pump
The purpose of Fertigation is to provide orchards with small, frequent amounts of nutrients and irrigation water to supply the plant’s nutrients in an accurate and appropriate matter.
The characteristics of these techniques in their three forms provide the plant with sufficient and regular quantities, supplying them into the root system where absorption is maximal. This would then increase the efficiency of the use of fertilizers and would effortlessly provide the amount of water needed for irrigation.
The discrepancy can be noted in the efficiency of the three irrigation systems, as traditional fertilizers (mixers) are no longer used due to the disproportion between the injection of fertilizer and the flow of irrigation water. Moreover, the concentration of fertilizer in irrigation water at the start of irrigation is high and decreases over time.
Nonetheless, the other two systems are very efficient in terms of the amount of fertilizer applied with the water flow.
It is important to note that adding fertilizers at the beginning of watering could lead to the loss of nutrients, as they could be washed out and removed from the root system of the plant. Adding fertilizer in the last quarter of irrigation could also lead to the accumulation of salts in the root zone and their irregular distribution.
The use of modern irrigation systems helps to control the pH of the soil through the use of phosphoric acid, which allows the ideal absorption of nutrients, especially small nutrients. Therefore, it helps to avoid the blockage of irrigation lines due to the formation of solid materials, such as calcium and magnesium carbonate.
by Eng. Ibrahim Younes