This summary was prepared from publications by
Chia, C. L. and Huggins, C. A.,
FAMILY: Musaceae SCIENTIFIC NAME: Musa
sp. ORIGIN: Asian tropics
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The banana plant is a large perennial herb with leaf
sheaths that form trunk-like pseudostems. The plant has 8
- 12 leaves that are up to 9 ft long and 2 ft wide. Root
development may be extensive in loose soil in some cases
up to 30 ft laterally. Other plant descriptions vary, it
depends on the variety.
Flower development is initiated from the true stem
underground (corm) 9 - 12 months after planting. The
inflorescence (flower stalk) grows through the center of
the pseudostem. Flowers develop in clusters and spiral
around the main axis. In most cultivars, the female
flowers are followed by a few "hands" of neuter
flowers that have aborted ovaries and stamens. The neuter
flowers are followed at the terminal ends by male flowers
enclosed in bracts. The male flowers have functional
stamens but aborted ovaries.
Fruits mature in about 60 - 90 days after flowers first
appear. Each bunch of fruits consists of variable numbers
of "hands" along a central stem. Each
"hand" consists of two transverse rows of
The fruit quality is determined by size (finger length
and thickness), evenness of ripening, freedom from
blemishes and defects, and the arrangement of the
clusters. Quality standards may differ in various
VARIETIES Back To: Menu Bar
Cavendish and Brazilians are the two major groups of
dessert bananas in Hawaii. The Cavendish group includes
'Williams', 'Valery', 'Hamakua', 'Grand Nain', and
'Chinese' varieties. The Brazilian bananas are often
incorrectly referred to as apple bananas in Hawaii. This
group includes the 'Dwarf Brazilian'.
The Bluefields group, which includes
Bluefields and 'Dwarf Bluefields', was the
leading commercial variety in Hawaii. Currently, this
group accounts for less than 1% of banana production in
Hawaii due to its susceptibility to the Panama wilt
disease. Starchy cooking bananas, or plantains, are also
found in Hawaii. Largo, Maia maole, and Popoulu are
various plantain groups.
Chinese Variety (Dwarf Cavendish)
'Williams Hybrid Variety (Williams)
Valery Variety (Taiwan,
North Banana, Tall Mons Mari)
'Hamakua Variety (Bungulan, Monte
Bluefields Variety (Gros Michel)
Dwarf Bluefields Variety (Cocos)
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Bananas contain about 74% water, 23% carbohydrate, 1%
protein, and 0.5% fat. A 4-ounce banana without the peel
is a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber.
Banana fruit may be eaten raw or as a cooked vegetable.
The fruit can also be processed for a number of food
products. Ripe fruits can be pulped for puree for use in
a variety of products including ice cream, yogurt, cake,
bread, nectar, and baby food. Ripe bananas can be dried
and eaten, or sliced, canned with syrup, and used in
bakery products, fruit salads, and toppings. Green
(unripened) bananas can be sliced and fried as chips.
Whole green fruits can also be dried and ground into
flour. Vinegar and alcoholic beverages can be made from
fermented ripe bananas
Other parts of the banana plant are consumed besides the
fruit. The heart of the growing pseudostem is eaten in
India. In Southeast Asia, the male bud is eaten as a
boiled vegetable. The banana leaves are not eaten but may
be used for wrapping food in cooking.
The banana foliage and pseudostems are used as cattle
feed during dry periods in some banana producing areas.
Culled bananas are used to feed cattle and hogs. Bananas
are a good energy source but need to be supplemented with
PROPAGATION Back To: Menu Bar
Bananas are propagated from offshoots (suckers or keikis)
or corms (bullheads). If enough buds are present, large
bullheads can be halved or quartered.
Planting material should be treated for nematodes:
(1) Cut off bottom half of corm and, if discolored, trim
off up to 2/3 of the bottom of the corm until only clean
white tissue remains.
(2) Trim off about 1/2 inch of tissue around the sides of
(3) If bullheads are used, cut off the pseudostem 3-4
inches above the top of the corm.
(a)Immerse the trimmed corms in a hot water bath at 50 -
52 degrees C (122 - 126 degrees F) for 15 - 20 minutes.
Before planting, place the corms in a transparent plastic
bag at room temperature until new roots begin to appear.
(b) Coat the corms with parafilm wax prior to shipment or
SOIL TYPES and
LOCATION Back To: Menu Bar
Bananas grow well over a wide range of Hawaiian soil. The
ideal soil should be well drained but have good water
retention capacity. Soil pH should be between 5.5 and
Bananas grow best in areas with 100 inches or more of
well-distributed rainfall per year. Irrigation is needed
if rainfall is inadequate or irregular. Banana plants
should be planted in protected areas, because they are
generally susceptible to wind damage. An average
temperature of 81 degrees F and full sun is also ideal.
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Banana plants are usually not planted closer than 8-10 ft
apart. It depends on the banana varieties planted and the
management practices. The number of suckers developing
should be kept to a maximum of 4 or 5 per mat, depending
on planting distance and other practices.
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In mature orchards, the application of 10-5-20 at the
rate of 2 lb per mat every 4 months should be adequate.
HARVESTING Back To: Menu Bar
The banana bunch can be harvested when the fingers turn
light green and the corners become rounded rather than
angular. The pseudostem should be cut back after the
bunch is removed.
POSTHARVEST Back To: Menu Bar
The optimum conditions for ripening bananas are at
temperatures of 68 - 70 degrees F and 90% relative
humidity. As the fruit ripens, sugar content increases
while starch content decreases.
Green bananas can be stored for up to seven days at room
temperature or up to 20 days under refrigeration. Neither
green nor ripe bananas should be stored at temperatures
lower than 58 degrees F. Banana fruits will discolor and
the flesh will become mealy at cooler temperatures.
Careful handling is important during and after
harvesting, because bananas bruise easily. Bruising can
be minimized by the use of plastic sleeves, padding, and
limited handling. Three-quarters-mature bananas do not
bruise as easily as fully mature fruit. The bunches are
usually cut into individual hands and washed before
Ethylene gas can be applied to bananas to start the
ripening process and to assure evenness of ripening.
Bananas also produce ethylene gas naturally. During the
ripening process, pulp temperatures should range from 58
to 64 degrees F, relative humidity should be controlled,
and there should be adequate air circulation to ensure
high quality fruit.
DISEASES Back To: Menu Bar
Panama Wilt - fungus (Fusarium oxysporum f. cubense);
restricted to Bluefields
Freckle - fungus (Phyllostictina musarum)
Cigar - End Diseases - fungi (e.g. , Finger-tip rot,
Hendersonula toruloidea); prevented by covering bunches
Nematodes - Burrowing (Radopholus similus), Root-knot
(Meloidogyne spp.), Spiral (Helicotylenchus
multicinctus), Lesion (Pratylenchus spp.)
Choke-Throat - Physiological, caused by low temperatures
Bunchy Top Disease of Bananas - Bunchy Top Virus
INSECTS Back To: Menu Bar
Oriental fruit fly (Bactrocera dorsalis)
Spiraling whitefly (Aleurodicus dispersus)
Banana skipper (Pelopidas thrax)
Gray pineapple mealybug (Dysmicococcus neobrevipes)
Chinese rose beetle (Adoretus sinicus); on young suckers
Banana rust thrips (Chaetanaphothrips orchidii)
Banana aphid (Pentalonia nigronervosa)
Green garden looper (Chrysodeixis eriosoma)
Armored scales (several species)
Banana root borer (Cosmopolites sordidus)
PRODUCTION Back To: Menu Bar
In Hawaii, yields of 12,000, 15,000, and 35,000 lb/ac can
normally be obtained for the 'Brazilian', 'Bluefields'
and 'Cavendish' respectfully. Yields of 75,000 lb/ac have
been reported under optimal conditions. In the better
plantations in Central and South America, yields can
exceed 40,000 lb/ac.
In 1992 the area in crop totaled 960 acres, down 1
percent from the previous year and the lowest level in
ten years. Oahu growers reduced acreage 8 percent, but
Hawaii growers increased acreage by 6 percent. Statewide
harvested acreage totaled 870 acres, down 2 percent from
the same date a year earlier. After Hurricane Iniki
passed through the State in early September, bearing
acreage and production slipped during the last quarter of
1992 on Kauai and Oahu. Weather thereafter was generally
favorable for cleanup efforts and orchard recovery.
The 1992 estimated banana production at 12.0 million
pounds represents a 5 percent increase from 1991.
Although farm prices for all varieties averaged 41.0
cents per pound in 1992, unchanged from the previous
year, the farm value rose to a record $4.9 million due to
the increase in output. In 1991, The average farm price
on Oahu, Kauai and Maui was at record high rates. Farm
level value increased for all islands except Oahu during
The 5 percent increase in banana production statewide was
mainly due to a boost on Hawaii island. Hawaii's
production rose 10 percent from 1991 to 8.9 million
pounds, accounting for 74 percent of the State's total.
Oahu accounted for 19 percent of the total with 2.3
million pounds, 9 percent below a year ago due to less
acreage and weather related and disease problems. Kauai
and Maui accounted for the remaining 790 thousand pounds.
Cavendish production increased 7 percent from a year ago
to 9.6 million pounds, the highest level since 1988.
Brazilian output fell 1 percent from 1991 to 2.3 million
pounds, the second year of decline. Statewide yields
averaged 13,800 pounds per acre, 8 percent above a year
ago. Maturing orchards on Hawaii island helped push
overall yields to the record high level.
REFERENCES Back To: Menu Bar
Chia, C. L. 1981. Bananas. Commodity Fact Sheet BA-3(A)
Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service, CTAHR, University
Hawaii Bananas, Annual Summary. 1993. Hawaii Agricultural
Statistics Service. Hawaii Department of Agriculture and
United States Department of Agriculture.
Huggins, Catherine A., Kevin M. Yokoyama, Kulavit
Wanitprapha, Stuart T. Nakamoto and C. L. Chia. 1990.
Banana Economic Fact Sheet #11. Department of
Agricultural and Resource Economics, CTAHR, University of
Statistics of Hawaiian Agriculture 1992. Hawaii
Agricultural Statistics Service. Hawaii Department of
Agriculture and United States Department of Agriculture.