TROPICAL AND SUB-TROPICAL FRUITS
Banana. Banana (Musa paradisiaca L.) occupies over 1,64,000 hectares, mainly in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Though some inferior types of banana are found growing as far north as the Himalayas, its commercial importance is mainly limited to the more tropical conditions, such as those prevailing in central, southern and north-eastern India. It is a moisture- and heat-loving plant and cannot tolerate frost or arid conditions.
VARIETIES. Cultivated varieties are broadly divided into two groups : table and culinary. Among the former are ‘Poovan’ in Madras (also known as ‘Karpura Chakkarekeli’ in Andhra Pradesh); ‘Mortaman’, ‘Champa’ and ‘Amrit Sagar’ in West Bengal; ‘Basrai’, Safed Velchi’, Lal Velchi’ and ‘Rajeli’ in Maharashtra; ‘Champa’ and ‘Mortaman’ in Assam and Orissa; and ‘Rastali’, ‘Sirumalai’, ‘Chakkarekeli’, ‘Ney Poovan’, ‘Kadali’ and ‘Pacha Nadan’ in southern India. ‘Basrai’, which is known under different names, viz. ‘Mauritius’, ‘Vamankeli’, ‘Cavendish’, ‘Governor’, ‘Harichal’, is also grown in central and southern India. Recently, the ‘Robusta’ variety is gaining popularity in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The ‘Virupakshi’ variety (Hill banana) is the most predominant variety in the Palni Hills of Tamil Nadu. Among the culinary varieties, Nendran bananas, ‘Monthan’, ‘Myndoli’ and ‘Pacha Montha Bathis’ are the leading commercial varieties in southern India. ‘Gros Michel’ is a recent introduction into southern India; it is suitable for cultivation only under garden-land conditions and is generally fastidious in its cultural requirements. It is not, therefore, in favour with the cultivation.
PROPAGATION AND PLANTING. Propogation is by suckers or off-shoots which spring at the base of a banana-tree from underground rhizomes. Vigorous suckers, with stout base, tapering towards the top and possessing narrow leaves, are selected for plant. Each sucker should have a piece of underground stem with a few roots attached to it.
Banana suckers can be planted throughout the year in southern India, except during summer, whereas in the rest of the country, the rainy season is preferred. They are planted in small pits, each just enough to accommodate the base of a sucker. The planting-distance varies from 2m X 2m in the case of dwarf varieties to 4m X 4m in the case of very tall varieties.
MANURING. An application of 20 to 25 kg of farmyard manure, together with about 5 kg of wood-ashes per plant is given at planting time. In southern India, ammonium sulphate is applied one month, five months and nine months after planting 20 kg per hectare each time. In western India, a little over 2 kg of oilcake per stool is applied during the first three months after planting. A complete fertilizer mixture may be applied to supply 100 to 200 kg of N, 100 to 200 kg of P2O5 and 200 to 400 kg of K2O per hectare. A green-manure crop is also considered beneficial. Trials at the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research have shown that for the ‘Robusta’ variety, a fertilizer mixture comprising 180 g of N + 108 g of P2O5 + 225 g of K2O per plant is ideal.