How do bananas grow?
At all stages of banana plant growth, clusters of baby banana plants are found at the base. One daughter banana plant is chosen by workers to grow and eventually replace its mother. A mother banana plant will bear fruit in nine months. Farmers love to remind farmers that this is just like humans. The banana’s “trunk”, which is actually a collection of tightly packed leaves, will be topped by a pinkish purple flower that is about the size of two fists. As the flower matures, its petals will begin to peel away, revealing layers of small “hands” or clusters. Harvesters use a caliper to ensure that only the right size fruits are picked.
Harvest time is when workers cut through the thick stems to remove the plant. Like a sushi chef, a banana farmer will use his machete quickly to quickly cut the stem and then place them in a shallow trench between the bananas plants. This is where they will turn the organic matter into compost. This is another climate-smart method that isn’t used on banana farms. The Rainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Standard outlines the importance of organic fertilizer. It can be used to either leave green matter in the soil or to apply compost. This will help reduce farm costs while keeping soil fertile.
An ingenious transportation system that crosses the banana field fields is the crisscrossing of them: simple metal arches connected by a central tunnel line. The central line runs through the banana fields and is connected to hooks which allow workers to hang fresh-harvested bunches. After hooks are exhausted, workers wear a harness and return the bunches to the central washing/packing plant.
3 SUSTAINABLE Banana Plantation PRACTICES
1 BIODIVERSE SOIL
Why is biodiverse soil important? Panama Disease (Tropical Race 4) is a soil-borne fungal disease that attacks the roots and leaves of banana plants. The more diverse the soil, the less likely it is that soil diseases will spread. Panama Disease (Tropical Race 4), which is more severe in East Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean, is much less serious than it is in East Asia, Central America, and the Caribbean. However, the disease is well contained in the Canary Islands, where it is less dangerous than a subtropical species. What does the Canary Islands’ banana-producing community do differently?
Canary Island banana farmers don’t throw away banana plants after they have harvested their fruit. Instead, they use them to cover the ground on the plantation. The organic material created by the banana plants is a natural addition to the soil’s biodiversity. You can also find other organic materials on the island like pinocha, or pine leaves.
2 DRIP IRRIGATION
Smart irrigation is required to ensure bananas don’t go without water. The Canary Islands banana farmers employ drip irrigation, which is a common and sustainable water management technique. It sounds exactly the same as it is: water is dripped directly onto the roots of the plant. This method of irrigation reduces water wastage and ensures that the plant gets enough water to grow.
Many banana plantations throughout Latin America use small planes to release chemical insecticides. This is often because of the large size of the plantation fields, which makes it one of the most cost-effective methods for pest removal. These aerial pesticides can pose serious health and environmental risks to wildlife and humans. If they are absorbed into the soil, these pesticides can be a problem. They can also leach into streams of water.
Canary Island banana growers are increasingly turning to biocontrol to rid their crops of pests, as Europe has tightened its chemical laws. Banana farmers can use the natural enemies of pests (predators) to keep them away from their banana plants and minimize the need for pesticides. Banana farmers can implement pest management strategies more easily because they have smaller plants (below or around one hectare).
It is important to keep in mind that the predators on Canary Island plantations are not native species. They will die once the pests (their only food source) have gone.
Why Bananas matter?
Bananas are one of the most consumed and cheapest fruits worldwide: they are the most traded fruit and the fifth most traded agricultural product. The global export value of the banana trade was estimated to be US $8 billion in 2016, with a retail value between $20 and 25 billion.
Banana sector embracing sustainability
According to a report by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, anana producers are increasing the use of voluntary sustainability standard (VSSs), in order to address the main sustainability challenges facing this sector.
These issues include crop diseases, impacts of climate change, excessive pesticide consumption, low farm-gate prices, poor labour practices, and crop disease.
The report states that VSS use saw a 43% compound annual rate (CAGR), from 2008 to 2016, in comparison to a 0.71% CAGR for conventional bananas.
It was discovered that at least 7 Percent of the world’s banana production was certified by VSS in 2016, which represented 36% of exported bananas. VSS-compliant bananas tend to be sold as such, which is a departure from other commodity markets.
The demand from countries in the developing globe, such India, China, and Philippines, is driving banana consumption up to 136m tons by 2025. This would be an increase of 20m tonnes over 2017.
This is expected that the Asia-Pacific region will lead this growth, accounting for 61% of current demand. Voora noted that the large Asia-Pacific region had the potential to propel the sector towards sustainability if it could develop demand for VSS-compliant bananas.