In the Philippines, banana is an important crop because 76% of banana supply is used as food while 16% is used as feed. Moreover, banana is now becoming popular as a commercially traded raw material for various food and non-food industrial products.
Regional production statistics from 1994 to 2004 indicate that Cagayan Valley ranked as the fifth biggest banana-producing region in the country.
One of the favorite varieties of banana is the Saba/Cardaba that can be cooked or eaten as raw. It can be processed into catsup, cakes, and pastries.Interestingly, this banana provides nutritional value that is similar to potato.
Saba has a large angular fruit with a white and sweet starchy flesh that makes it ideal for cooking.
The Saba plant’s pseudostem is robust and grows taller than the dessert cultivars, producing about 8 suckers per mat at harvest. Its fruit, however, has a longer gestation period at 150 to 180 days after flowering. The plant’s potential yield is 26 to 28 kg per bunch with one bunch containing up to 16 hands, each hand having 12 to 20 fingers. One fruit or finger is 8 to 13 cm long and 2.5 to 5.5 cm in diameter.
Soil and Climatic Requirements
An ideal soil for banana production has the following characteristics: well-drained, deep, 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 temperature ranging from 15°C to 35°C. Also, growth of the plant requires minimum rainfall of 20-22 cm a month, distributed evenly throughout the year. Nonetheless, places with long dry season could also be developed into smallhold banana farms, as long as there is enough water provided to the plants through sustained watering or irrigation facility.
Establishment of Wind breaks
The banana plants are sensitive to strong winds. If bananas are planted in places frequently visited by strong winds, then it should be provided with wind breakers. Wind velocities of 40 to 56 km/hr can cause crown distortion while 65 km/hr winds cause complete destruction of banana plants. In the absence of windbreakers, the bananas should be planted on the leeward side and not on the wind ward side.
Land should be prepared thoroughly. If possible, plow the field 2-3 times followed by harrowing particularly in areas that have been planted previously with other crops. This will provide the land with proper tilth and will 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 minimal to prevent erosion.
Suckers, corms, and tissue-cultured plantlets are the most practical and recommended plant materials. If suckers or corms are used as planting materials, make sure that these come from healthy and vigorous plants. These should also be free from pests and diseases like corm borer, nematodes, and viral diseases like Banana Bunchy Top Virus, Fusarium Wilt, and Mosaic. When tissue-cultured plantlets are used, these must be obtained from nurseries supervised by the Department of Agriculture, Isabela State University, and other state universities and colleges in Region 2.
Distance of Planting
Plant Saba/Cardaba at wider distance ranging from 4 to 7 meters. This distance of planting will contain 204 to 625 plants per hectare. However, the distance can be adjusted depending on the fertility and depth of the soil and sufficiency of water supply.
Planting should be done at the onset of the rainy season to take advantage of the longest possible period of growth with adequate moisture to newly planted suckers or plantlets. However, it can be done anytime of the year when enough water is available. Dig holes 40 to 60 cm in diameter and 30 to 50 cm deep. The holes should be large enough to accommodate the roots without overcrowding. For best results, small amounts of fertilizer and organic matter are placed at the bottom of the hole. The fertilizer is then covered with a thin layer of soil before setting the seedling. Cover the roots of the plants with soil, press it down around the base of the seedling to avoid air spaces in the hole.
(Note: If possible and feasible, the holes should be burned or sterilized using rice hull before planting is done.)