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Developed by Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture
with support from SNV Netherlands Development Organization
Version as of July, 2010

The Ministry of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture wishes to acknowledge and thank
the Provincial Education Director for Manicaland, the District Education Office in
Mutasa District, SNV Netherlands Development Organization and the staff at
St. Columbas Primary School, St. Peters Primary and Secondary Schools for their
support, guidance and advice in producing the teaching and learning materials for
bananas. Further, the expertise and work done by Marymount Teachers’ College and
Mutare Teachers’ College need to recognized, as well as the illustrations provided by
Blessing Mukuze.

Version as of July, 2010

TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction 2 Chapter 1 Choosing A Place For A Banana Plantation 3 Chapter 2 Land Preparation 4 Chapter 3 Propagation 5 Chapter 4 Planting 7 Chapter 5 Taking Care Of The Banana Plantation 16 Chapter 6 Harvesting 22 Chapter 7 Growing Of bananas As A Business 23 1 .

we will see more and more small-holder banana farmers with prosperous plantations. This book will give you suggestions on how to grow bananas. This manual was written for primary school pupils and primary school leavers in the banana growing valleys of Zimbabwe. We hope that the young farmers will pass these skills to their parents and the community at large.INTRODUCTION You want to grow bananas. It is designed to equip the pupil or school leaver with basic skills and knowledge needed to grow bananas commercially. 2 . That is why you are reading this book. It also gives you recommendations on how to make a business out of growing and selling them. With the passage of time.

• Fertile. • Best temperatures of 20º . deep and well-aired soils. Shamva. bananas are usually grown and do well in low-lying areas such as Zambezi.30ºC. For bananas to grow well they need the following: • High rainfall or a good supply of water all year round. • Long dry periods Banana plants need humid conditions and wet soils all the time.CHOOSING A PLACE FOR A BANANA PLANTATION In Zimbabwe. Clay soil is colder and can easily be water-logged. 3 . Burma. Well drained loam soils are the best type of soil for growing bananas. Certain things reduce or affect badly the growth of bananas. Some of these are: • Cold weather and frost Severe winter can damage leaves and also the flowers might not develop well.CHAPTER 1 . Rusitu and Honde valleys. • Heavy clay Heavy means that the soil is difficult to plough.

The chosen land must then be protected from strong wind. The holes are covered with soil. The trees are cut down and stumps are dug out of the ground. The land must be left for 3 months before new plants are planted. water canal. It is not necessary to plough the land especially on sloping ground. All banana plants must be dug out to destroy pests. Clearing is done for a number of reasons:• Marking of planting stations becomes easy. The tree logs and stumps are removed from the site and can be used as firewood. borehole etc. The land must have well drained soils. Any form of ploughing increases the risk of soil erosion. • Habitats for pests are destroyed.LAND PREPARATION The land is cleared to make it suitable for banana planting. The area must be frost-free. • Slashing the grass (without ploughing) enables the roots of the grass to continue holding the soil and reduce soil erosion. The land must be flat or a gentle slope. 4 .Choosing a Piece of Land to be a Banana Plantation When choosing a piece of land to grow bananas make sure all the conditions listed above are present. The land must be close to an all-year-round water source such as stream. Previously used Banana Plantation Such land should be cleared in a similar manner. river. animals and thieves. CHAPTER 2 .

The first leaves of water suckers are wide leaves (not sword shaped). Suckers can be removed from the mother plant and planted elsewhere.CHAPTER 3 . Sword suckers have sword shaped leaves. The banana plant can only be grown from the underground stem. 5 . Do not use water suckers as planting materials. The banana fruit is seedless and therefore cannot be grown from seeds. Banana plants produce two types of suckers. The suckers grow into new plants. Sword suckers grow quickly and flower earlier than water suckers.PROPAGATION Propagation is how living things increase in numbers. The underground stem (rhizome) produces suckers. sword suckers and water suckers.

Suckers are readily available and rarely fail to grow when planted. If you are growing bananas for the first time. This method is carried out in South Africa and some other countries. The growth chemicals cause roots and shoots to appear and grow. They are then transferred from the trays to pots. However this method has the danger of carrying pests and diseases to the new plantation. TISSUE CULTURE This is a specialized process. you may ask for sword suckers from a neighbour. Usually they remain in the pots for 2-3 months before planting. Pieces cut from the banana stem are placed in a culture solution containing nutrients and growth chemicals.Growing bananas using suckers is easy and cheap. You may also approach established banana farmers for imported seedlings of Williams and Grand Nain varieties. The seedlings are cared for in trays. 6 . or you don’t have the variety you need.

Nzarayapera. Imported varieties e. are high yielding but require more inputs such as fertilizers. the seedlings will grow and produce suckers.g.g. Contour ridges of maize fields are also used for banana growing. Layout Communal farmers usually grow bananas in areas not suitable for maize such as stream banks and wetlands.Zimbabwe imports such seedlings from South Africa. Aug/Sept plants grow faster because of the hot season and later the rainy season. Choose the varieties that suit the local conditions and are high yielding. Plants planted in Jan/Feb period take a longer time to grow but are likely to produce bigger bunches (fruit) than the Aug/Sept plants. CHAPTER 4 .PLANTING Varieties There are several local and imported varieties of bananas. Williams. Traditional varieties e. These suckers will be as good as the imported seedlings. When planted. 7 . The seedlings do not carry pests and diseases. Therefore there is no need to continue importing seedlings. have lower yields but require less inputs. As part of the contour ridge the banana plants will benefit from the fertilizers added to the maize crop. Planting Time The best times for planting bananas are January/February period and August/September period.

This would need some of the flat land or gently sloping land to be used for growing bananas. Therefore higher yields of bananas are expected. To achieve this layout of a plantation you need to follow certain procedures described below. 8 .Any flat land is usually used for growing maize or some other crop. If communal farmers use modern farming methods they can produce good quality bananas that can be sold outside Zimbabwe. In a plantation the plants are uniformly spaced. This requires accurate positioning of planting holes. Each plant has sufficient space to grow and will receive enough sunlight.

The following tools are needed.1 metres.1m stick. Start from the edge of the field.4 metres. Marking Out Holes Planting stations should be marked out so that the distance between holes in a row is 2. 9 . The first thing is to decide on the position of the first line to be marked. The rope or wire is placed along the first line. mark out the positions of the pegs on the first row. The distance between rows should be 2. Using the 2. The pegs are driven or hammered into ground on the marked positions.

The second line to be marked is a line at right angles to the first line.5m. Place pegs 2.4m stick. 4m and 5m or 60cm. 80cm and 100cm or or 30cm. On this second line. mark out the positions of the first pegs of the other rows. using the 2.5m The 3 sticks are placed and form a right angle at the corner peg. The 3-4-5 method can be used to mark out a right angle. It is called the 3-4-5 method because the ratio of the lengths of 3 sides of the right-angled triangle used is 3:4:5. For each row. Use 3 sticks whose lengths are in the ratio 3:4:5. The right angle is marked on the first peg (corner peg) of the first row. 2m and 2. 10 . 40cm and 50cm 1.1m apart. place your rope or wire at the first peg for the row. For example: 3m.

The dots in the picture are positions of pegs and not positions of plants. The pegs will guide you later when finding the exact position to place the plant in the planting hole.Make sure that the distance between rows remains 2.4 metres. 11 .

The centre of the stick shows where to place the sucker in the planting hole. Dig out a hole 45cm x 45cm x 45cm. 12 . The subsoil is lighter in colour. The topsoil is darker and contains humus. Repeat the digging of holes until the intended area is done.Digging Out The Holes Place the planting stick between two pegs in a row. Digging is easier if the soil was watered a day before. Place top soil on one side of the hole and subsoil on the other.

On the day of planting. 13 . The top of the underground stem should also be 15 cm below ground level. Fill the hole with water a day before planting. Use the planting stick to make sure the plant is placed midway between the two pegs. Place the sucker in the hole. mix the top soil with 30g of Compound C. 2. some of the subsoil to obtain the correct planting depth.Planting 1. 3. Fill the hole with top soil and if necessary. 4.

Cover with 10cm of soil 9. [N. Place 30g of compound C around the plant but not on the roots. Place 30g of Compound C around the plant. Place 30g of Compound C around the plant. Fill the basin with water. Make a basin (about 90cm diameter) around the plant. 11. Temik is a very dangerous poison. Cover up the Temik. 7. 8. For best results the manure must be well decomposed.] Instead of Compound C. Compound C was applied at 4 stages during the planting. 2 – 3 weeks after planting apply 16g of Temik per plant. Cover with 10cm of soil. Dig a shallow trench around the plant and spread the Temik. [ N. 6.] 14 . 10.B. kraal manure may be used during land preparation and planting. 12.5.B.

If the plant is damaged during planting. Keep the basin area clean and well watered. the plant can be cut just below the damaged part. 15 . 14.13. 15. Remove weeds by hand. Keep baboons out of the field because they destroy young plants. After 1-2 months of planting check and replace poor plants.

TAKING CARE OF THE BANANA PLANTATION Watering For the first 6 months use hose and basin irrigation. Sprinklers can be used so that the whole ground is watered. The weeds should be pulled out by hand. After 6 months some other method of irrigation can be adopted or the hose and basin irrigation is continued. See the picture below.CHAPTER 5 . Weeding Weeds must be removed because they compete with the banana plants for nutrients and water. Increase watering if it is hot. You do not have to water if it is raining. The roots of the weeds will hold soil together and thus reduce soil erosion. However flooding on slopes is discouraged because it can cause soil erosion. 16 . Put enough water in each basin (25 litres of water every 2-3 days) The amount of water can be decreased or increased depending on the weather conditions and the soil type. The weeds in the rest of plantation can be slashed. The basin must always be free of weeds. Flooding can be used on flat land.

Broadcasting of the fertilizer may be done on an older plantation. After 6 months fertilizer can also be applied in stripes along the rows. 17 . Application of Fertilizers Compound J fertilizer should be applied around the plant station every month. herbicides (weed-killer) can be used to kill weeds. Use 80g of Compound J per plant station.Alternatively. The fertilizers must not be placed close to the plant and its suckers. Herbicides must be used with the assistance or advice from AGRITEX officers.

Trimming allows sunlight to reach the suckers and reduces the occurrence of diseases such as Cigar end-rot. This is done when the distance between the bell and the last hand of fingers is about 15cm.Trimming of Leaves and Bunches Leaves Cut away dead leaves around the plant. They are removed when flowering is complete. Dried up remains of flowers at the end of fingers are also removed because the dried remains are capable of bruising the fingers during harvesting. 18 . Avoid trimming the leaves in winter to avoid straining the plants during this difficult period. This is best done in April and August. Bunches The bell should be removed for more nutrients to go the growing fingers (fruits) resulting in an increase in size of the banana fingers.

Banana plants carrying heavy bunches need such support. Propping A prop is a support. Mulching helps to keep the soil moist and warm. 19 . On slopes. usually a stick. A banana plant can be prevented from falling over by supporting it with wooden poles. This material and other plant material from slashing of weeds can be placed between rows. used to keep something up or upright. the mulch is put across the slope to reduce soil erosion. The mulch must be kept wet to discourage termites. Soil erosion is also prevented.Mulching Trimming produces a lot of dead plant material.

Sucker Selection If a plantation is cared for correctly. This involves the correct selection of the followon suckers. Pests Serious banana plant pests are nematodes and mole rats (Nhuta). If your plants are not growing well. The suckers that are removed can be potted and kept in a Nursery. 20 . If the land is flat. Plants that show signs of disease must be destroyed.Pest and Disease Control Diseases There are no serious banana diseases in Zimbabwe. It would be advisable to consult AGRITEX officers. the plantation should be moving towards the East or North East. De-suckering and Sucker Selection De-suckering This is done every month to remove unwanted suckers. it will move slowly in a particular direction. The mother plant and follow-on sucker must have the best conditions for growth. There are suggestions that some plants such as Vertiva grass repel mole rats. Suckers must be removed to reduce competition for nutrients. it could be the effect of pests. These can then be used as planting material when planting time is due. Mole rats can be controlled by Aluminium Phosphate tablets. Some of the diseases are Cigar end-rot and Panama diseases caused by fungi. Generally these do not affect seriously the production of bananas in this country. Nematodes are controlled by pesticides such as Temik.

Do not select a sucker growing under a bunch to be the follow-on sucker. The follow-on must be in the marching direction of the plantation. 21 .On a slope. The follow-on sucker is chosen when the banana plant is about 1.5m tall. The follow-on sucker is usually to the east or north-east of the mother plant. If it moves down the slope the underground stem and roots will be exposed after a few years. A sword sucker about 60-80cm tall is chosen. The diagram to the right shows how the positions of new mother plants at a plant station change in the desired direction. the plantation must not move down the slope.

These are:• Change of colour from green to yellowish. colour and quality of skin. Aug-Sept planting will throw bunches in 9-10 months. 22 . • Fingers are about three quarters full i. The hands are then graded according to fruit size. The follow-on sucker will throw a bunch in 3. and amount of nutrients available. The hands are cut off from the bunch and dipped in a water bath with fungicide.e. Harvesting Indicators There are a number of signs that show that a bunch is ready for harvesting. Bananas are loaded in padded crates to avoid bruising. • Ridges should still be prominent on the remaining quarter of the finger. water applied.3/4 of fruit is rounded.CHAPTER 6 . Jan/Feb planting will throw bunches in 10-12 months. Handling of Bunches After Harvesting Avoid bruising of the fruits. Avoid contact between the banana fingers and the juice from the cut surfaces.HARVESTING The time from planting to fruiting depends on the variety of banana planted and conditions such as temperatures.4 months after harvesting of the mother plant. Do not use sacks and baskets as these would bruise the fruits. Month of planting also affects flowering and fruit development. The juice will stain the skin of bananas and the stained parts turn black.

g. buying inputs.GROWING OF BANANAS AS A BUSINESS With proper planning the growing of bananas can earn more money than growing maize. Bananas should not be exposed to the sun or extreme heat after harvesting. This will reduce some of the costs. The temperature of the room is controlled at about 15ºC. sending bananas to the market etc. harvesting. Bananas will spend about 5-7 days in the ripening room. The trader will carry out the ripening of the bananas. Another commercial method involves dipping the banana hands in an ethrel solution and left in a room for 3-4 days. 23 . Commercial ripening involves the use of a ripening gas ethylene. Traditional ripening The banana hands are piled up and covered with sacks.Ripening There are traditional and commercial methods of ripening bananas. Planning begins before choosing a site for the plantation. CHAPTER 7 . They are left at room temperature. planting. Plan with your neighbouring banana farmers to do certain things together and at the same time e. The bananas will take a long time to ripen. Some traders prefer buying untreated bananas from the farmer.

00 . The expected profit can be calculated as below: N.g. You must also keep records of actual costs and actual sales. 24 . fertilizers. This will help you to come up with accurate estimates in the future.It is advisable to find buyers who are willing to provide transport for your bananas. Expected Yield Number of planting stations x average bunch size (kg) e. 00 The profit from the first harvest is generally lower than that of subsequent harvests. 1. 00 3. Expected Income Expected yield (kg) x market price per kg e. Cost of Inputs Transport.$ 550. and pesticides = $550. labour. The most important thing is for you to work out the cost of expected inputs and the expected yield and expected profit.B. The costs are reduced and period between harvests is also reduced. 6 000 kg x o.00 4. 00 = $ 650. Profit Expected income – expenditure $ 1 200. The figures used below are based on approximations and therefore use your own figures that suit your market. 200 plants x 30 kg =6 000kg 2. 20c per kg = $ 1 200.g.