Plantain is an important staple in West and Central Africa, where it is predominantly grown by smallholder farmers. Plantain (Musa spp. AAB) is an important staple in West and Central Africa, Latin America and Asia. It closely resembles dessert banana, yet the fruits are consumed cooked as the starch component of a dish.
As starchy foods, plantains and bananas (Musa sp.) are important sources of high-calorie energy in the entire West African sub-region (Stover and Simmonds, 1987). They are also of great socio-economic importance in the producing countries.
Nearly 90% of the total plantain and banana produced worldwide (63 million tonnes) are consumed locally in the producing countries leaving only 10% for export (CGIAR, 1992, 1993). Plantain and banana are also very important sources of rural income
Although Musa spp. originate from South East Asia, West and Central Africa is a secondary centre of diversification for plantain with more than 100 cultivars.
Plantain grows best in deep soil that is well drained and rich in organic matter. Fallow land can also be used, but the yield will depend on what was previously grown and the duration of the fallow. Plantain can be grown together with other types of compatible crops (cocoa, cocoyam) or as a single crop.
The term “plantain” refers to a type of banana with a very different flavor profile and culinary application than the sweet, yellow banana with which most people are familiar. … Plantains are usually larger and tougher than bananas, with much thicker skin. They may be green, yellow or very dark brown.
After production of several ratoon crops, the upper surface of corms in aging plantain fields can be seen above soil level. The exposure of the corms, which is called high mat, is believed to have several causes. The nature of ratooning in plantains seems to be particularly important.
High mat exposes the roots which dry out. The plants become weak and tip over easily because they are no longer firmly based in the soil. Earthing up (adding soil around the plant) does not help much.
However, mulch protects the roots which would otherwise dry out and improves the ‘ ramification and stability of the plants.
It is better to plant the plantains in the time of rainy season. The plant should grow without stress and vigorously during the first 3 to 4 months after planting, so don’t plant it during the last months of the rainy season. Many farmers plant the plantain with the beginning of rains.
Plant density: For plantains use 1,000 to 1,200 plants per acre with planted distances of 6´x 6´ or 6´x 7´ for the mountainous zone, and 10´x 4´ for the coastal plains. It produces between 30 – 38 leaves before fruiting and takes 12 months to produce a mature bunch.
Weeds are one of the major constraints in growing plantains. Under ample rainfall and sunshine, weed-control accounts for 45% of the labor requirements in plantain production. Plantains are highly susceptible to weed competition due to their slow growth rate during the long 6-month establishment phase.
Mulching is one successful weed-control method, but the practice competes with household food needs and does not provide additional income to growers in the rainforest where farm size is small and space is intensively utilized in complex cropping systems.
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