Plantain and banana are both herbaceous plants of the Musa family. Much is said about their origin that I find it hard to pin point where it actually originated from but am most excited it’s grown everywhere in my country, in fact we have more plantain and banana than we have weeds in our farms. Pardon my gross exaggeration but truth is, plantain and banana really do well in West and Central Africa. They are thought to have originated from New Guinea. In 1469, the Portuguese recorded their discovery of the banana in West Africa.
Bananas are cultivated in nearly all tropical regions of the world, and is a staple starchy food for 80 million people and important source of income. Most often, people find it difficult to differentiate between the two. Plantain resemble banana but are longer in length, have a thicker skin, and contain more starch. They are usually cooked and not eaten raw unless they are very ripe. Because these crops do not produce seeds, vegetative propagation is the preferred form of reproduction.
In a one day workshop organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and rural Development and the farmers in Buea, farmers were taught how to increase their yield via vegetative propagation.
In Cameroon, a sucker of plantain cost 500frs. For a farmer cultivating plantain and banana in large scale, this is pretty expensive. A cheaper and most efficient technique is vegetative propagation, a technique which allows a single sucker to have up to 15 plantlets. With vegetative propagation, false decapitation of a sucker induces the sprouting of 8-15 new suckers. The technique is carried out on plantain that hasn’t flowered yet; usually 5-6 months old plantain or banana. The size of the sucker determines the number of plantlets to sprout.
The great thing about this technique is, the propagator and the nursery can be in separate locations. The propagator can be of any size but the ideal length of a propagator is 4meters and width of 1.5meters. This makes it easy for one to stretch across while working. In 4 by 1.5 propagator, 100 medium suckers can be placed with each sucker giving a minimum of 15 plantlets. After propagation, it takes atmost 3weeks to see the plantlets shoot from the sucker and 3 months to have the suckers ready for planting.
In order to have a very good yield, it is necessary to respect the planting distance and maintain the farm during its growth period. The ideal planting distance is 3 meters. Maintenance requires that you control weed, prone the plantain(or banana) and use pesticides and fungicides. Fungi and pest affect the leaves and stem of the plantain and prevent nutrient uptake from the soil thus affecting the size of the banana or plantain.
Testimonies from farmers who have practiced vegetative propagation proof is a technique worth using. Mr Moise, a young graduate from the university who attended the workshop in 2011 gave a testimony of how useful the method has been to him. He propagated 150 suckers and got over a 1000. Respecting the right planting distance and doing the necessary maintenance, he is very pleased with his farm.
According to FAO estimate, more than 100 million tons of banana and plantain were produced worldwide in 2007. Uganda is the largest producer of banana and plantain in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), followed by Rwanda, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
The Trans-African highway network project will influence trade across Africa a great deal. Farmers will have to increase their production in order to meet up with demand. The vegetative propagation technique is quite a cheap and easy way to increase yield for plantain and banana.