Plantain Farming: Critical Factors for Consideration

Plantain is a sought-after starchy food crop, well adapted to tropical regions with along history of cultivation in Africa, America and Asia. Several production system and agronomic practices have been adopted for plantain cultivation with good yield recorded. Plantain farming either conventional or organic is profitable and sustainable if done with good agricultural practices. In recent times, increasing demand of plantain for domestic and industrial utilizations has been a major drive for its farming.

 A bunch of plantain sells between N700 – N2000 (NGN Naira) in the market/farm depending on quality, finger size or weight. Plantains can be sold in dozens,per kilo or tonnes. High quality plantain usually command good price in market and are adjudged by the following criteria; Size and Weight (Bunches with well filled fingers and sufficiently round fruits); Fresh fruits without cracks; Fruits without mechanical damage; Colour of the pulp (well defined orange rose pulp)and Fruits without pest or fungal attacks. Organic farming is beginning to increase the value and demand of plantain.

Plantain Bagging

It is interesting to know that farmers don’t only get revenue from sale of plantain but also from sale of suckers after first year of successful establishment. By and large, to establish plantain farm/plantation that will give good yield, the following critical factors are necessary for consideration;

Soil Type and Land Preparation:This is a very critical factor to consider when you want to establish or invest in plantain plantation. Most startups have run into big loss as a result of wrong choice of farmland or improper land preparation. It is necessary to engage plantain plantation expert or experienced farmer when acquiring farmland. Proper monitoring during land preparation is also essential. Some soil type may require testing for pH, EC, Nutrient status, depth of top soil, etc. Plantain requires a well-drained fertile (loamy clay) soil that is not too sloppy and the land should be easily accessible. For thick-forested virgin land, selective clearing should be done with minimal/controlled mechanical operation to avoid damage to topsoil. In most cases, using payloader for land clearing has been found to do less physical and biological damage to top soil when compared to bulldozer clearing.

Sucker and Cultivar:Plantain is mostly propagated by sucker. Selection and breeding programmes overtime have help to improve the quality of plantain cultivars. For example, improved medium cultivar (False-horn) can produce matured big fruit from 7 – 9 months. The target market, purpose and environment should be considered in selecting cultivar.Moreover, there are conventional, macro-propagated and tissue-cultured cultivars whereby their viability, superiority and homogeneity increase respectively.Most importantly, when selecting suckers for planting, propagation or multiplication, it is important to select from mother plants that are healthy and that are at flowering or at fruiting stage or have fruited. Suckers should be treated (either using chemicals or biocontrol agents) before planting.

 Sufficient Water Supply: Plantain requires sufficient water supply in form of rainfall (100mm – 166mm/month)or irrigation (50L/days/adult plant) to produce quality fruit. Lack of sufficient water during/before flowering stage has been found to affect quality of fingers. Irrigation should be put in place during water deficit period. A sprinkler and drip irrigation has successfully been used for plantain cultivation.

Spacing and Arrangement:The spacing and arrangement used affect plant population density and yield of plantain. The type of cultivar, target market and land area may influence spacing and arrangement at times. The recommended spacing for West Africa cultivation is 3m x 2m which gives a plant population of about 1666 per hectare. The arrangement could be rectangular, square or triangular etc. Other spacing and arrangement have been adopted with good yield recorded.

Fertilizer Application: Plantains are heavy feeders. Depending on the nutrient status of the soil, it is essential to apply a combination of manure/compost and/or neem cake and complete chemical fertilizers (NPK + Urea) during planting thus giving a well-balanced and cost effective nutrient profile. Manure can be applied at planting while chemical fertilizers applied before flowering. The application of neem cake has been found effective. Neem cake is an organic fertilizer (NPK) and pesticide. At times, foliar fertilizer (Seaweed extract, humus solution or manure tea or plant tea) application may be necessary for macro and micro nutrients supply and Sigatoka management.

Weeds, Diseases and Pests Control: Weeds infestation in plantain field reduces soil nutrients and yield and harbour pests and diseases. Proper weed control measures (such as chemical,mechanical or manual or biological control) should be put in place. Major diseases and pests of plantain are Fungus (Black Sigatoka), Nematode, Rhizome weevil and Stem borer.

Common diseases and pests of plantain can be prevented by avoiding injury on the plant, spraying copper based fungicide/Trichoderma viride and neem oil/Beauveria bassiana, de-leafing, bagging (where necessary) and using healthy/disease resistant cultivars. Neem cake controls nematode and other soil borne pathogens that topple plantain in infected soil.

Contact Kaspharyn Solutions, Nigeria for;

Improved plantain suckers

Neem cake and Neem oil

Biocontrol agents (Trichoderma  viride, Beauveria bassiana, Pseudonomas, etc)

Plantain farm set up (Conventional or Organic)/Consultancy

Business plan

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