Banana Tips

  • I’m trying to encourage folk to chop out all their tall bananas and put in the shorter ones.  Much easier than needing a ladder where it’s really difficult to wrap a cover over the bunch to protect them!!  Ref: Sheryl Backhouse
     
  • There are no longer any restrictions on the varieties permitted or number of plants for home cultivation. As of the 1st July 2017 the regulations changed. A permit is no longer required to grow banana plants in Queensland; provided they are tissue cultured plantlets purchased from a QBAN accredited nursery. (You are still not allowed to grow ornamental bananas, though).Currently we stock (subject to availability): Cavendish, Bluggoe, Ladyfinger, Ducasse, Dwarf Ducasse, Pisang Ceylan, Blue Java, Pacific Plantain, Red Dacca, Dwarf Red Dacca, Goldfinger, Pisang Mas, Senorita. 
    QBAN nurseries:
    Clonal Solutions:  www.clonal-solutions.com.au   07 4093 3826    bananas@clonal-solutions.com.au
    Blue Sky Bananas:  http://backyardbananas.com.au/
    In theory it sounds great but when I rang up one QBAN nursery in NSW, they only supply to commercial farmers in huge quantities of thousands and the farmer sends them the material to propagate from so they only propagate to order. Another option for commercial growers is the Maroochy Research Station at Woombye who supply tissue culture.
     
  • Bunch covers protect the fruit from bird, wind and sun damage, improve its quality and increase the yield. However they can encourage other pests such as rats to create nests within the bunch. The other problem with the commercial covers sold is that you can't see through them and for the home gardener, you need to!
     
  • Cut off the flower bell 100 mm below the last hand to increase fruit size. Do this once all the banana hands have set fruit. Leave only the two strongest suckers.
     
  • At a field day at Alstonville, the NSW Agriculture horticulturist Arthur Akehurst said that taking off diseased leaves of bananas while they were still green was more beneficial. It reduces the spore load and improves air flow which are both good for leaf disease control. Growers who have been using this method are also noticing a lesser incidence of other pests.
     
  • The books tell you to leave only one sucker with one banana bunch on the mother tree. This will give you a large bunch. What we have found is that we leave all the suckers because as there are only two of us, we can’t handle larger bunches unless we freeze them so we much prefer the smaller bunches.
     
  • Koalas eating Bananas! I was telling my elderly uncle about the wallabies eating mulberry leaves and he mentioned that when he was up north many years ago, there was a chap by the name of LJ Hoey at Brandon near Ayr who use to call koalas in from the wild and feed them bananas which they loved – he actually saw it happen and has given me a photo. Ref: Sheryl Backhouse
     
  • There is no treatment for Panama Disease. The only way is to grow a resistant variety of banana, e.g. in the West Indies in the past they flood the infected land with sea water for several years. When Lady Fingers are replanted it takes a few years but the disease eventually shows up again. Goldfinger has some resistance to PD and is suitable for backyards. Panama is a species of Fusarium which is specific to bananas while other species infect other plants. Ref: Don Gordon
     
  • Tips for striking bananas from ‘bits’ and ‘suckers’  Most club members will know how to divide up the base of a banana plants into ‘bits’ for propagating new banana plants – each ‘bit’ having an eye from which the shoot emerges. Alternatively you can use suckers taken from the side of the clump for establishing new plants. A newsletter published recently by the Department of Primary Industries has some helpful tips to increase your chances of successfully ‘striking’ these bits or suckers. The article is written by Jeff Daniells, Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences, DPI, South Johnstone and Pat O’Farrell, from the Agency for Food and Fibre Sciences, DPI, Mareeba.

    Tip 1: The authors recommend avoiding planting in hot, wet conditions, as these conditions promote rotting in the planting material. The drier months of the early spring are the best. In South East Queensland this is usually September - October.
    Tip 2: You can plant bananas at other times of the year by potting them. Small suckers or bits can be established in bags or pots. They should be watered every 1-3 days for the first 2 weeks until the root system is well established. The potted plants are stronger and establish more quickly once you plant them out.
    Tip 3: It is important that land be prepared well and has good drainage for bananas. Deep ripping before planting improves the drainage of the soil. The soil needs only to be worked fine enough to get good contact with most of the planting material.
    Tip 4: Soil moisture is critical. Suckers and bits have the best chance of establishment if planted in moist soil a few days after a good rain. No further water should be required until the shoots have emerged. Alternatively, apply 25 - 50mm of irrigation immediately after planting.
    Tip 5: Larger planting pieces give better strikes. The larger the sucker or bit, the more reliable the emergence of shoots. Using large pieces is usually not a problem for the home gardener, but of course is less cost-effective in commercial settings. Larger pieces usually have more than one ‘eye’ so the extra shoots which emerge need to be thinned out later.
    Tip 6: Allow cut surfaces to air-dry for 1-2 days, but not in the sun as they could dry out too much. The cut surfaces on suckers and bits can allow infection by soil organisms, causing rotting. Drying them out a little allows the cut surface to form a ‘shellac-like’ seal, which protects the planting piece against rot-causing organisms. Keep dirt away from the cut surfaces to reduce the risk of infection.
    Tip 7: Planting. Suckers and bits should be planted deep enough to ensure adequate soil moisture until shoots emerge. About 15cm of soil depth is about right. After covering suckers or bits, the soil should be firmed down with the foot, to improve contact between soil and the planting material.
    Reference:  Jeff Daniells and Pat O’Farrell: Department of Primary Industries, “How to increase your banana strike rate.”

  • Bunchy Top Disease   https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/CFS-BAN-4A.pdf
     
  • Growing Tips for Bananas                  http://backyardbananas.com.au/

    Position
    To give your bananas the best possible start in life; choose a wind-protected, full-sun position.

    Preparation
    Prepare well in advance. Soil should be fertile, rich in organic matter, well-drained and not compacted. pH should be approximately 6.5. Incorporate 200g Dolomite and 150g fertilizer (Nitrophoska or Rustica) thoroughly into the soil. Organic matter is great, to increase the level of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. Irrigate thoroughly for a few days prior to planting. Banana plants love water but they hate wet feet. Mound the soil up and then dig a hole so the plant will be higher than the surrounding ground, to minimize water pooling around the base and drowning the roots.
    Planting
    Bury the plant almost halfway up the stem. This will discourage suckers from emerging too early, and ensures the mother plant is secure, so that the suckers don’t pull the plant up out of the ground.
    Immediately after planting, tissue culture plantlets are at their most vulnerable. The potting medium is light and the root system is very concentrated. Plants become more stable after a week or two, once the roots have spread into the surrounding wet soil. Do not over-irrigate, but the soil should remain moist. Leaf wetting is critical at this stage. It has nothing to do with irrigation, but with alleviating stress if you can keep the leaves wet for as long as possible. Evaporating water cools the leaves, enabling them to photosynthesize at maximum efficiency. These tender leaves will wilt and fold very easily during the heat of the day and they may even burn and die back if conditions are severe. They have come from tropical North Queensland with average daily temperatures in the low 30s and humidity in the high 80s. The entire leaf area should be gently wetted by the irrigation system for about 5 minutes, three times a day, between 10am and 5pm. This should continue for about 3 weeks until the root system takes over, the leaves harden off and normal transpiration begins. If you are planting several, space them about 3m apart. This allows for plenty of sunshine, whilst still enabling you to tie them together for support if required. If you have a large bunch hanging off the plant, they tend to lean over, and may actually fall over, so you may have to tie the tree to a fence or other sturdy structure, or prop the tree and the bunch with a sturdy piece of timber.
    Fertilizing
    Commercial growers use Nitrophoska or Rustica, or a Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P) and Potassium(K) blend as close a possible to 10N:3P:6K. During warmer growing months apply every 4 to 6 weeks. Reduce during cold months. Take care not to allow any to come into contact with the plant stem. Water in well. Within two months of planting, roots can extend more than a metre away from the stem, so apply the fertilizer thinly over the whole area, NOT in a concentrated dollop around the stem.
    Watering
    Maintain soil in a moist but not sodden condition.
    Deleafing Remove any diseased or down leaves. Try to maintain as many healthy leaves as possible to ensure efficient photosynthesis.
    At bell emergence
    Apply a good handful of Potash around the tree.
    Desuckering
    The first flush of suckers may appear very early and these should be cut off at ground level until the mother plant is about 2m tall. Don’t apply kerosene at this young age, as you may damage the mother plant. Don’t be tempted to keep these suckers for your next crop because they have emerged from a point too shallow under the base of the mother plant and they will more than likely topple over (and pull the mother plant over as well) when mature. The most suitable sucker for your next crop should be selected about 5 months after planting, at which time it will have emerged from a point much deeper in the soil and be more stable at maturity. The suckers you want to select are called sword suckers – very thin sword-like leaves. The big fat healthy leafed suckers are not the ones you want to select – these are called water suckers and they will not produce the best plant or the biggest bunch of bananas.
    Weeds
    Weeds will compete with your banana plants. Tiny tissue culture plants have very little reserves. Competition from weeds will weaken the plant. Use only hand-hoeing to remove weeds, until the banana plants are about 2m tall. Avoid ALL systemic, contact, or hormone weed-killers around them.
    Bunch Trimming
    Remove the bottom couple of hands to increase the overall size and length of the remaining fruit. These lower hands are noticeably smaller than the ones above, and you can just snap them off with your fingers.
    Bagging
    When the fingers start to turn upwards, put a banana bunch cover over the bunch to (hopefully) discourage hungry birds and flying foxes. Tie the top end of the bag around the bunch stem and leave the bottom end hanging open for air flow to reduce humidity.
    Bell Removal
    There’s no hard and fast rule about removing the bell. Some commercial growers remove it because they believe it drains nutrients from the bunch. Others leave it on because they believe the weight helps the bunch to hang straighter.
    Harvesting
    Watch the developing fruit for signs of almost-ripeness. The corners will round off, and the fruit will fill out. Don’t leave them on the tree to ripen to yellow, otherwise the whole bunch will ripen all at once. Take a finger off the top hand and bring it inside. Once it looks ripe enough, taste it. If the flavour is good, then you can remove the whole hand. If not, then leave it for another day, and try again. If you want to remove the whole bunch - work with a mate if possible – the bunch could weigh as much as 40 kg. Cut a notch in the tree at your shoulder height and slowly pull the bunch down onto your shoulder. Have someone else cut the bunch stalk from the tree. Cut the remaining crown (leaves) off the tree as high as possible and leave these as compost. Leave the remaining stem as tall as possible as the retained water and nutrients will continue to feed the suckers. When it has completely browned off you can drop it and chop it up and remove it.