How to grow tissue culture bananas in Kenya
One of the common fruits in Kenya is bananas. Banana fruits in Kenya are extensively cultivated as a staple food and also as an income generating activity by many local communities. However the main problem with banana farming in Kenya is that bananas in Kenya are easily prone to diseases that affect the yield and lead to profit loss and sustenance for the farmer.
The pests and diseases that affect banana farming in Kenya are such as nematodes and weevils, fungal diseases like Sigatoka and Fusarium Wilt, and bacterial diseases in Kenya such as the Bacterial Xanthomonas Wilt (BXW). Banana farming in Kenya also is affected by viruses that cause diseases such as the banana bunchy top disease and banana streak.
In order to advance in agriculture and economic development in Kenya, one has to adopt farming technologies in Kenya that give advantage to farmers by providing planting materials free of disease, mature fast, better yield and safe for human consumption. One of the ways is through farming tissue culture bananas in Kenya which grow faster and give increased yields compared to the traditional species of bananas in Kenya.
Tissue culture in Kenya is a technique of generating plants from roots, leaves or stems in sterilized conditions and can be produced in abundant numbers. Tissue Culture is available for distribution to farmers in Kenya at household and commercial levels. Tissue culture in Kenya is also beneficial in helping plants such as Bananas in Kenya which do not produce seeds to reproduce.
Due to prevalent viral diseases affecting farming in Kenya, tissue culture has been used by Kenyan researchers to yield disease resistant growing materials. The cultured plants in Kenya are uniform genetically, free from disease and high yielding. This contributes to improved economic benefits per unit area of land through use of tissue cultured plants for farming in Kenya.
How Tissue cultured bananas are developed in Kenya
After generating under sterile conditions, new banana plantlets shoot; they are reared in a laboratory for some weeks before being transferred hardening in a green house. Two months after and at a height of several centimeters, the banana plantlets in Kenya are ready for the farm. In comparison with the predictable use of banana suckers in Kenya, tissue culture in Kenya speeds up the multiplication process dramatically. In Kenya, about 2,000 healthy banana plantlets are produced from a single shoot of tissue culture practice compared to ten suckers from a single banana plant in Kenya within six months. Tissue culture banana in Kenya produces faster and fruits within 340 days compared to 420 days for conventional bananas in Kenya.
How to grow tissue culture bananas in Kenya
How to plant tissue culture seedlings
- The seedlings are bought when they are ready to be planted in the garden, so you need to have your garden ready by the time you go to pick them from the company selling them.
After your field is prepared, you dig the holes (1.5-2ft x 1.5-2ft x 1.5-2ft). The deep hole helps reduce formation of high mat and risk of the plants toppling (falling) in the advent of wind.
Rows should be in straight lines and if on a hill side, planting should be along the contours to minimize soil erosion.
As you dig the hole, the soil you remove is separated, top soil (black) separate and subsoil (red soil) separate.
- After that, you put well decomposed manure (three to five kilogrammes) in each hole and you can add one hoe-full of the red soil and mix properly. Do not return too much soil in the hole (so do not refill the hole). When all the holes are ready, and with manure in, you then can pick the plants from the company selling them and transport them straight to your garden.
If you cannot plant on the same day, you can off load the plants carefully and keep them under shade for planting the next day, but make sure you water them that evening.
- Planting should never be done in a field that already has bananas. This to avoid pests and diseases. Planting should therefore be done in a clean field preferably a virgin one where bananas have not been planted in the last 2-3 years.
The exercise of planting tissue culture bananas involves splitting of the polythene paper pot holding each while holding the soil carefully. Then, using your hand or a simple garden tool such as a panga, make a smaller hole in the manure/soil mixture at the bottom of the hole and place the seedling in this small hole. Then compact the soil by pressing using your hands to make the plant hold firm in the soil.
- Water the plant with about half-a litre of water and if possible mulch around the plant with grass inside the big hole (mulching could be done before the plants are brought when you are preparing the holes after putting manure/soil mixture).Depending on its size, the seedling will most likely remain deep in the hole but this is okay.
- The remaining big hole will serve to collect any rain water and other soil nutrients brought by runoff to feed this plant and make it grow healthy. If the season is dry, check on your plants regularly and water them, if necessary.
- If you are planting say 1 acre, the recommended number of plants is 450 plants but for a higher plant population and for commercial purposes, you can plant 640 plants per acre.
- If you plant 450 plants per acre, the distance between holes is 3 metres by 3 metres. If you choose to plant 640 plants per acre, the plant spacing is 2.5 by 2.5 metres.