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Banana and Plantain—Specialty Crop Profile
Global consumption of banana and plantain is about one trillion individual fruit each year. They are either consumed raw when ripe or cooked when hard, green, mature or at various stages of ripeness and represent one of the most significant sources of food energy in the Pacific. Banana leaves are commonly used as table mats and plates. They are also used for wrapping some foods before or after cooking. Banana blossom, also called bud or bell, is consumed as a cooked vegetable dish. The pseudostem (or “trunk”) is also used throughout the Pacific to line traditional above- and below-ground ovens together with banana leaves placed over the food to keep it dirt-free. Fibres are extracted from the stems and leaves and used for various purposes. There are many medicinal uses that are important for banana. The fibre of the pseudostems and the juice of the stem are used in various treatments, such as for concussion, muscle ache, broken bones, cuts, burns, and fevers. Eating banana can also be used to clear fish bones that are caught in the throat.
Commercial production worldwide
Bananas and plantains represent the largest fruit crop in terms of both world production and trade. Total world production in 2006 was 113 million metric tons (MT). Almost 17 million MT were marketed in world trade in 2005, valued at about US$5 billion. During this period about 980,000 MT were produced in Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia but only 120 MT were exported. An insignificant amount was imported (FAO, n.d.). In 2005, Hawai‘i produced 10,000 MT of bananas for local consumption and imported 5,900 MT (NASS 2009).
For subsistence purposes bananas are commonly intercropped with a range of other naturally occurring and cultivated plants such as papaya (Carica papaya), coconut (Cocos nucifera), kava (Piper methysticum), breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), Marianas breadfruit (Artocarpus mariannensis), yam (Dioscorea spp.), sweetpotato (Ipomoea batatas), aibika (Abelmoschus manihot), and cassava (Manihot esculenta). Any variety can be used in agroforestry systems. ‘Karat’ and other Fe‘i banana varieties of Pohnpei, appear to thrive under some shade of breadfruit trees and in some situations do better if replanted each year. If not properly managed, however, competition for water, nutrients, and light can lead to low yields. The more pest resistant varieties can thrive for many years in such systems without the need for replanting.
Environmental services provided
Banana plants establish quickly and are used in various parts of the world as shade during the establishment of crops that are sensitive to excessive sun. Crops such as cacao (Theobroma cacao), coffee (Coffea spp.), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana), and kava benefit from shade during the establishment period. Bananas can be used as windbreaks that produce a useful crop, but for stronger wind events such as cyclones bananas offer little protection and are readily blown over by strong wind. Bananas grow well on steep lands but require a shade tolerant cover crop such as perennial peanut (Arachis pintoi) if they are to be considered useful in the control of erosion. Banana plants are aesthetically pleasing with their broad leaves and sometimes very attractive colours, and are a quintessential component of any tropical garden landscape.
Original source of this article
This article is excerpted by permission of the publisher from
Daniells, J., L. Englberger, and A. Lorens. 2011 (revised). Banana and Plantain (Musa spp.). In: Elevitch, C.R. (ed.). Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agriculture Resources (PAR), Holualoa, Hawai‘i. © Permanent Agriculture Resources.