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PLANTAIN (Musa spp.)
Image courtesy www.food.ndtv.com
Plantain formerly known as Musa sapientum but now called Musa paradisiaca, belongs to the banana family Musaceae. It is one of the less sweet cultivated varieties (cultivars) of the genus Musa whose fruit is also known as the banana. They are staple foods grown throughout the tropics, constitute a major source of carbohydrates for millions of people in Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific.
Nigeria is one of the largest plantain producing countries in the world (FAO, 2006). Despite its prominence, Nigeria does not feature among plantain exporting nations because it produces more for local consumption than for export. It is ranked third among starchy staples and its output in the country has been doubled in the last 20 years.
Plantain (Musa spp.) occupies a strategic position for rapid food production in Nigeria. Production, which is concentrated in the Southern part of the country, still remains largely in the hands of small-scale farmers who, over the years, have creatively integrated it into various cropping systems. Unlike some other starchy staples whose demand tend to fall with rising income, demand for plantain increases with increasing income. Also, there is potential for industrial processing of plantain, which has raised interest in the production by small and large scale farms in the country, which would help Nigeria continue being one of the world’s largest producers of plantain.
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) over time has conducted research and through their extension services found out that the contributions of plantain to the income of rural households in major producing areas in Nigeria has continued to increase tremendously in the last few years.
Plantain, as a parthenocarpic plant i.e it is a seedless fruit, is propagated via its vegetative parts such as suckers or corms (short swollen underground stem that serves as a storage organ) and plantlet (small plants raised in a nursery).
The following are types of planting material used to propagate plantain:
Peeper: This a small sucker emerging from the soil
Maiden sucker: This is a large sucker with foliage leaves
Sword sucker: This is a large sucker with lanceolated leaves considered the best planting material
Bits: These are pieces obtained from a corm that has been chopped.
Plantain plantlets. (image courtesywww.komoagroservice.com)
Plantain needs a hot and humid environment; the average temperature should be at about 30oc, the rainfall should not go more than 100mm per month, the rainfall should be well distributed round the year and dry seasons should be short. Irrigation would only be necessary if there is a long dry season on a large scale of land.
When choosing a site or farmland for plantain these factors must be considered;
Avoid using land which has just been used previously to cultivate banana or plantation due to the fact that the soil’s fertility will be extremely low.
When the land is being prepared there should be a minimum disturbance to the topsoil with its important organic matter, that is no-tillage farming should be practiced, so manual clearing is best used for the land.
Medium plantains are best preferred to giant plantains for field cultivation, even though giant ones produce heavier fruits, but one disadvantage of the giant plantain is that it is prone to damage most especially by strong winds. Also, plantain can be combined with other crops such as cocoa; cocoyam etc. each plot should have only one cultivar, and should be homogenous in terms of the planting material, i.e. either plantlet or sucker.
The planting material should be sorted, based on their size that is large, medium and small and should be planted in this order. The minimum planting size for the hole is 30cm by 30cm by 30cm, when the sucker is planted it is advised to cover with the topsoil then bottom soil and each pit should be filled with about 2kg of composted manure. Plantain can be planted any time of the year depending on the annual rainfall, or if there is irrigation, but the best time to plant is mid-raining season.
The weeds on the plantation can be controlled mechanically that is using a hoe, machete or machinery and also by using post-emergent herbicides (herbicides should never touch the plantain plants), and it should be done regularly for the first six months.
This should be done, because it helps control weed, protect the topsoil from harsh weather conditions such as heavy rainfall, intense sunshine etc. and it will help the soil to retain its organic matter which is essential for plantain cultivation.
This is the process of supporting the Plantain plant using a bamboo stick, or any other form of support called prop, it is done when it starts fruiting. It is used for tall varieties and also used in areas where there is a strong wind.
Old dry leaves that hang down should be removed, because they can harbor insect and pest. The green leaves should not be touched, and weeds, dead leaves, and other plant debris piling up at the base of the Plantain plants should be removed in order to reduce root weevil and other insects that might harm the plant.
Fertilizer should be applied a month after planting, or with the first rain, the fertilizer should be applied in a ring form at the base of the plant, and shouldn’t be dug or worked into the soil. Fertilizer shouldn’t be applied in dry season.
Control of pest and disease
Plantain is prone to several pest, parasites, and disease, some of them include:
· Banana weevil (Cosmopolites sordidus)
· Black Sigatoka (leaf spot disease)
· Viral disease (Banana bunchy top virus)
The most effective way to prevent this pest and disease is to use healthy source material. Chemicals can also be used, most especially on a large scale.
Harvesting of the crop is done manually, by cutting the bunch of plantains when 1 or 2 fingertips start yellowing. The postharvest period of plantain should be well managed unless it can easily be affected by disease.
They should be stored at room temperature in a well-ventilated area, in order for them not to rot. The plantains that are still green will ripen slowly after several days.
E. Lionelle Ngo-Samnick Improved plantain production culled from http://www.anancy.net/
Crop Profile for Plantain and Banana culled from http://www.ipmcenters.org/
Plantain nutrition culled from http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/plantain
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