A Profitable Business in Saba Banana Production

Why produce bananas?

The Cagayan Valley ranks fifth among the banana producing regions in the Philippines. Significantly, in the country, banana is an important food especially for rural households and is increasingly being recognized as a commercially traded raw material for various food and non-food industrial products.

Cooked mature banana, specially of the saba or cardaba variety, is a common starchy food with a nutritional value similar to potato. It is also a popular variety used for processed banana products such as banana chips, catsup, flour, wine, cakes, or pastries.

What is the saba variety?

Saba, a processing cultivar, has a large angular fruit with a sweet, white starchy flesh when mature, two characteristics that make saba ideal for cooking.

The saba plant’s pseudostem is robust and grows taller than desert cultivars. It produces about eight suckers per mat at harvest. Its fruit develops from 150 to 180 days after flowering. The plant can yield about 26-28 kg per bunch, with one bunch containing up to 16 hands. Each has 12-20 fingers and each finger or fruit is 8-13 cm long and 2.5-5.5 cm in diameter.?

What are the requirements for saba production?

a. Soil and climatic requirements

The ideal soil for banana production is a well-drained, deep, soil that is rich in plant foods and humus, and retains moisture well. Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5. Banana is best grown in warm but moist areas, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 35°C. There must be a minimum rainfall of 20-22 cm a month, distributed evenly throughout the year. Nonetheless, places with long dry season could also be developed into banana plantations, as long as there is a sustained water supply available.

b. Wind breaks

The banana is sensitive to strong winds. In windy places, plant wind breaks. Wind velocities of 40-56 km/hr can distort the crown while 65 km/hr winds destroy the banana plants. In the absence of windbreaks, plant the bananas on the side away from the wind and not on the side exposed to the wind.

c. Land preparation

Prepare the land thoroughly. If possible, plow the field 2-3 times followed by harrowing, particularly in areas that have been previously planted to other crops. This will improve the soil tilth and destroy nematodes and microorganisms that may have built-up during the previous cropping. Proper tillage can also help in controlling weeds.

In steep slopes or hilly areas where plowing is impossible, hand-forking or hoeing can be done. However, tillage should be done to prevent erosion.

d. Planting materials

Suckers, corms, and tissue-cultured plantlets are the most practical and recommended plant materials. Get suckers or corms from healthy and vigorous plants that are free from pests. Obtain tissue-cultured plantlets from accredited nurseries such as those supervised by the Department of Agriculture or the Isabela State University in Region 2.

How is saba planted?

Plant saba or cardaba at distance ranging from 4 m to 7 m. This distance of planting will result in 204-625 plants per hectare. However, you can adjust the distance depending on the fertility and depth of soil and sufficiency of water supply.

It is best to plant at the onset of the rainy season to provide enough moisture to newly planted suckers or plantlets. However, you can plant anytime of the year if enough water is available. Dig holes about 40-60 cm in diameter and 50-80 cm deep. In each hole, place 1 kg of organic fertilizer or 200 g of complete fertilizer (14-14-14), then cover with a thin layer of soil before setting the sucker or plantlet. Cover the roots of plants with soil, then press around the base of the seedling to remove air spaces in the hole.

What are the cultural management practices in producing saba?

a. Fertilizer application

Fertilization is required to produce optimum yield. Fertilizer application should be based on the result of the soil analysis, crop removal, and target yield. Generally, high levels of nitrogen and potassium fertilizer is necessary. Nitrogen and potassium are required during the early stage of growth until bud formation. A second application of potassium is needed between bud formation and harvesting Apply fertilizer in fractional doses at least four times in a year. Make sure to apply fertilizer when moisture is present or available.

b. Irrigation and drainage

Irrigation is needed when the amount of rain falls below 10 cm/month. Inadequate moisture in the soil leads to slower growth rate and smaller bunches and fingers. Apply water through furrow irrigation, overhead sprinklers, and drip irrigation.

Drainage is important to prevent water logging. The drainage system may consist of the main canal, and a series of secondary and tertiary canals depending on the type of farm, extent of rainfall, topography, soil texture, and management.

c. Stem and mat sanitation

Sanitation significantly eliminates the habitat of some insect pests. In cleaning the banana plant, cut off the dried stalk and leaves. Pile them in between plots or around the mat 30-60 cm from the base of the plant. If they are diseased, burn or bury them. Maintain a clean plantation, by regularly cutting off dried stalks and leaves every 45-60 days.

d. Desuckering or pruning

This is done once a month to maintain the desired population and minimize competition for sunlight, water and nutrients among the plants in a mat or hill. Ideally, allow 1-3 suckers in a mat, depending on the scheme you follow. Remove unwanted suckers by cutting the pseudostem as close to the ground as possible. Remove the growing point to prevent regrowth.

e. Leaf pruning

The primary purpose of this activity is to reduce the amount of inoculum of leaf diseases and minimize the chance of burning. Cut off the dry and diseased leaves once a month. For leaves with less than 50% infection, trim off the infected parts only.

f. Weeding and cultivation

Saba banana, like any other crop, requires clean culture. However, it needs little or zero cultivation because of its shallow root system. You can control weeds by mechanical and chemical means. Mechanical weeding can be done through slashing and ring weeding. Slashing is more practical on newly established plantations while ring weeding is usually done by removing the weeds within a radius of 0.75-1 m from the base of the plant three weeks after planting and before fertilizer application. Mulching is also an alternative weed control method.

g. Fruit care

Remove obstacles to fruit formation by removing the leaves that touch the fruit. After the last hand appeared, remove the male to channel food produced by the plant to the developing fruit. This increases the size of the fingers in the bunch.

When is harvesting done?

Depending on the distance from the market, banana should be harvested green at varying stages of maturity.

Saba bananas for local or nearby market should be harvested a few days before they ripen. Fruits transported to distant places must be picked less mature with plainly visible edges.

The angularity or fullness of the fingers is the standard maturity index of banana. Fruits are classified as three quarters, full three quarters or full. Three quarter fruits are those with a clearly visible angle about 1/2 of their maximum size. Full three quarter fruits have less prominent angles while full stage fruits have virtually disappearing angles.

Saba banana is usually harvested at 150-180 days after shooting. The pseudostem should be cut back at a height of 1.5 m after the bunch is removed.

How much will it cost to invest in a 1-hectare Saba Plantation?

[click image to enlarge]

For more information, contact:

PCCARD-DOST (www.pcarrd.dost.gov.ph)
CVARRD-ISU (www.isu.edu.ph)

source: PCCARD-DOST, CVARRD-ISU, photo from 

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