Techno-Guide for Saba Banana Production in Cagayan Valley

In the Philippines, banana is an important crop because 76% of banana supply is used as food while 16% is used as feed. Moreover, banana is now becoming popular as a commercially traded raw material for various food and non-food industrial products.

Regional production statistics from 1994 to 2004 indicate that Cagayan Valley ranked as the fifth biggest banana-producing region in the country.

One of the favorite varieties of banana  is the Saba/Cardaba that can be cooked or eaten as raw.  It can be processed into catsup, cakes, and pastries.Interestingly, this banana provides nutritional value that is similar to potato.

saba bananas productionVariety
Saba has a large angular fruit with a white and sweet  starchy flesh that makes it  ideal for cooking.

The Saba plant’s pseudostem is robust and grows taller than the dessert cultivars, producing about 8 suckers per mat at harvest. Its fruit, however, has a longer gestation period at 150 to 180 days after flowering. The plant’s potential yield is 26 to 28 kg per bunch with one bunch containing up to 16 hands, each hand having 12 to 20 fingers. One fruit or finger is 8 to 13 cm long and 2.5 to 5.5 cm in diameter.

Soil and Climatic Requirements
An ideal soil for banana production has the following characteristics: well-drained, deep, rich in plant foods and humus, and retains moisture well.  Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 6.5. Banana is best grown in warm but moist areas, with temperature ranging from 15oC to  35oC. Also, growth of the plant requires minimum rainfall of 20-22 cm a month, distributed evenly throughout the year. Nonetheless, places with long dry season could also be developed into smallhold banana farms, as long as there is enough water provided to the plants through sustained watering or irrigation facility.

Establishment of Wind breaks
The banana plants are sensitive to strong winds. If bananas are planted in places frequently visited by strong winds, then it should be provided with wind breakers. Wind velocities of 40 to 56 km/hr can cause crown distortion while 65 km/hr winds cause complete destruction of banana plants. In the absence of windbreakers, the bananas should be planted on the leeward side and not on the wind ward side.

Land Preparation
Land should be prepared thoroughly. If possible, plow the field 2-3 times followed by harrowing particularly in areas that have been planted previously with other crops. This will provide the land with proper tilth and will destroy nematodes and microorganisms that may have built-up during the previous cropping. Proper tillage can also help in controlling weeds.

In steep slopes or hilly areas where plowing is impossible, hand forking or hoeing can be done. However, tillage should be minimal to prevent erosion.

Planting Materials
Suckers, corms, and tissue-cultured plantlets are the most practical and recommended plant materials. If suckers or corms are used as planting materials, make sure that these come from healthy and vigorous plants. These should also be free from pests and diseases like corm borer, nematodes, and viral diseases like Banana Bunchy Top Virus, Fusarium Wilt, and Mosaic. When tissue-cultured plantlets are used, these must be obtained from nurseries supervised by the Department of Agriculture, Isabela State University, and other state universities and colleges in Region 2.

Distance of Planting
Plant Saba/Cardaba at wider distance ranging from 4 to 7 meters. This distance of planting will contain 204 to 625 plants per hectare. However, the distance can be adjusted depending on the fertility and depth of the soil and sufficiency of water supply.

Planting should be done at the onset of the rainy season to take advantage of the longest possible period of growth with adequate moisture to newly planted suckers or plantlets. However, it can be done anytime of the year when enough water is available. Dig holes 40 to 60 cm in diameter and 30 to 50 cm deep. The holes should be large enough to accommodate the roots without overcrowding. For best results, small amounts of fertilizer and organic matter are placed at the bottom of the hole. The fertilizer is then covered with a thin layer of soil before setting the seedling. Cover the roots of the plants with soil, press it down around the base of the seedling to avoid air spaces in the hole.

(Note: If possible and feasible, the holes should be burned or sterilized using rice hull before planting is done.)


Cultural Management

Fertilizer Application
Fertilizer application is required to produce optimum yield. Apply fertilizer based on the result of the soil analysis, crop removal, and target yield. Generally, high nitrogen and potassium fertilizer is necessary.

Nitrogen and potassium is required during the early stage of growth until bud formation and another application of potassium from bud formation up to harvesting. Fertilizer can be applied in fractional doses at least 4 times in a year. Ensure that the soil must be moist when fertilizer is applied.

Irrigation and Drainage
Irrigation water is applied whenever the amount of rainfall falls below 10 cm per month. Inadequate moisture in the soil leads to slower growth rate, smaller bunches and fingers. Irrigation water can be applied through furrow irrigation, overhead sprinklers, and drip irrigation.

Drainage is important to prevent water logging. The drainage system may consist of the main canal, series of secondary and tertiary canals depending on the type of farm, extent of rainfall, topography, soil texture and management. They are important in waterlogged areas.

They should also be regularly maintained by removing debris and deposited sediments. Grasses should be removed to prevent rats from inhabiting.

Stem and Mat Sanitation
Sanitation is done to eliminate the habitat of some insect pests. In cleaning the banana plant, cut dried stalk and leaves. File them in between plots or around the mat 30-60 cm from the base of the plant. Maintain cleanliness around the plantation and do this regularly every 45 to 60 days.

Desuckering or Sucker  Pruning
This should be done to maintain the desired population and minimize competition for sunlight, water and nutrients among the plants in a mat or hill. The number of suckers allowed in a mat ranges from 1-3 or depends on the scheme followed by the grower. The factors to be considered in sucker control are time, sucker selection and sucker setting or sequencing. Followers less than 1 meter tall, unwanted peepers, water and floating suckers should also be removed.  Unwanted suckers are removed by cutting the pseudostem as close to the ground as possible and the growing point is remove to prevent growth. Desuckering is done once a month.

Leaf Pruning
The primary purpose of this activity is to reduce the amount of inoculum of leaf diseases and minimize the chance of burning. The dry/diseased leaves are cut once a month. For leaves with less than 50% affected, trimming of infected parts should be done.

Weeding and Cultivation
Saba bananas like any other crops need clean culture. It needs little or zero cultivation because of its shallow root system. To control weeds, mechanical and chemical control are recommended. Mechanical weeding can be done through slashing and ring weeding. Slashing is practically done on newly established plantations while ring weeding is usually done by removing the weeds within a radius of 0.75 m to 1.0 m from the base of the plant three weeks after planting and before fertilizer application. Mulching with the use of rice hulls is also an alternative weed control method.

Fruit Care
Fruit obstacle removal is done by removing the leaves that touches the fruit. Removal of the male bud after the last hand has appeared is being done to channel food produced by the plant to the developing fruit. This leads to increased size of the fingers in the bunch.

saba harvestingHarvesting
Depending on the distance where the banana is to be marketed, they should be harvested green at varying stages of maturity.

Saba bananas for local or nearby market should be harvested a few days before it ripens. Fruits transported to distant places must be picked less mature with plainly visible edges.

The angularity or fullness of the fingers is the standard maturity index of banana. They are classified as three quarters, full three quarters or full stages. Three quarter fruits are those with clearly visible angle about ½ of their maximum size. Full three quarter fruits have less prominent angles while full stage fruits have virtually disappearing angles.

Saba banana is usually harvested at 150 to 180 days after shooting. The pseudostem should be cut back at a height of 1.5 m after the bunch is removed.

Steps in harvesting
1. Removed first the leaves to avoid destroying standing plants in the surroundings.
2. At least two persons will do the harvesting. One will topple the pseudostem and one will carry the bunch.
3. Leave at least 2 m high pseudostem and cut surface should be covered with dried leaf sheath or plastic to prevent early decomposition. This will serve reservoir for water and nutrients.
4. Do not expose the harvested bunch to sunlight.
5. Bring the harvested bunch in a shaded area.
6. Spray the bunch with water especially during dry period (pre-cooling).

Common Insect Pests, Diseases, and their Control

Common Pests

Common Diseases

1. Fruit scarring beetles

1. Panama disease or Fusarium Wilt

2. Banana thrips

2. Moko or bacterial wilt

3. Mealy bug

3. Sigatoka

4. Banana aphids

4. Black leaf streak (BLS)

5. Corm weevil

5. Banana Bunchy Top Disease (BBTV)

Control Measures
1.  Field and mat sanitation, leaf pruning for light penetration, and reduction of dampness.
2.  Chemical treatment (use fungicides and insecticides)
3.  Eradicate/remove infected plant.


Written by Dr. Biley E. Temanel