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This summary was prepared from publications by
Chia, C. L. and Huggins, C. A.,

FAMILY: Musaceae SCIENTIFIC NAME: Musa sp. ORIGIN: Asian tropics

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 fruits ("fingers").
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 markets.

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.

‘Brazilian’ Variety
‘Chinese’ Variety (‘Dwarf Cavendish’)
'Williams Hybrid’ Variety (‘Williams’)
‘Valery’ Variety (‘Taiwan’, ‘North Banana’, ‘Tall Mons Mari’)
'Hamakua’ Variety (‘Bungulan’, ‘Monte Cristo’)
‘Bluefields’ Variety (‘Gros Michel’)
‘Dwarf Bluefields’ Variety (‘Cocos’)

USES Back To: Menu Bar
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 protein.

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 the corm.
(3) If bullheads are used, cut off the pseudostem 3-4 inches above the top of the corm.
(4) Either,
(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 storage.

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 6.5.
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.

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.

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.

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 boxing.
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 with bags.
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 1993.
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) Fruit.
Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service, CTAHR, University of Hawaii.

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 Hawaii.

Statistics of Hawaiian Agriculture 1992. Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service. Hawaii Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Agriculture.

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