A banana plantation may last a long time.
But if you want good harvests,
if you want to till the soil well,
you must dig up the plantation
after 7 to 10 years.
When you have dug up the banana plants,
let the ground lie fallow for 2 years.
Plant a legume
such as Calopogonium, Pueraria or Stylosanthes.
After 2 years,
dig in the legumes as green manure
(see Booklet No. 6, page 8).
You can then plant bananas again.
In Ivory Coast, in commercial plantations,
bananas are dug up
after cutting three bunches of fruit on each plant.
The replanting is done immediately.
Traditional plantations are short-lived,
for instance, 5 years in Cameroon,
2 to 4 years in equatorial Africa and Zaire.
In these plantations
other food crops are grown along with the bananas,
such as tania in southern Cameroon.
In Zaire attempts have been made
to grow banana plants and rubber trees together,
and bananas and oil palm.
Rubber trees and oil palms do not come into production quickly
Between the rows of these trees,
bananas are planted;
they do produce a crop quickly
and the planter earns some money
while he is waiting to harvest latex and fruit clusters.
When you make a cocoa plantation,
plant a banana sucker
beside each cocoa tree.
The banana will provide shade
for the young cocoa tree.
For a good plantation, you must:
Clear the ground, cut up the trees,
stack them and burn them.
Some ground is too wet;
the water prevents the roots from developing.
Soil like this must be drained
to get rid of the water
(see Booklet No. 6, page 20).
Make ditches every 15 metres
in the direction of the slope.
Dig a big central ditch
that will carry away all the water.
Make ditches on each side of the plantation.
Push pieces of wood into the ground, in rows,
to mark the spots
where a banana plant is to be grown.
The distance between the banana plants varies
with the variety
and the method of growing them.
Plantations that are replanted every 3 or 4 years
are planted closely.
Plantations that are replanted every 10 years
are planted at a lower density
(see Booklet No. 1, page 26).
In southern Ivory Coast,
Poyo bananas are planted 2 metres apart
in rows that are 2 metres apart.
This gives about 2 500 banana plants
to the hectare.
Gros Michel bananas are planted 2.85 metres apart
in rows 2.85 metres apart.
where bananas are grown with other crops,
bananas may be planted 5 metres apart
in rows 5 metres apart.
One or two months before planting,
make a hole at the places
where the pieces of wood were stuck in the ground.
Make the holes 60 centimetres deep,
60 centimetres wide and 60 centimetres long.
Put the soil from the top on one side
and the soil from the bottom on the other side.
Fill the holes with compost and manure
(see Booklet No. 6, pages 5 – 7).
Bananas dislike wind.
To shelter them, plant bamboos
on the edges of the plantation.
These bamboos will also provide stakes
for the bananas (see page 15).
For planting, use suckers (see page 4).
Take them from banana plants
that are between 3 and 6 years old.
These suckers should be
between 50 centimetres and 1 metre high
and broad at the base.
Let them dry in the shade for 3 or 4 days
before planting them.
Just before planting them,
trim them at a point 50 centimetres
from the base of the plant
and dip them in water
in which potassium permanganate is mixed.
Plant at the end of the dry season,
so that roots grow
before the rainy season begins,
and the suckers do not rot.
Two months earlier,
you made the planting holes.
You separated the soil at the bottom
from the soil at the top.
You put compost in the holes.
At planting time,
take the compost out of the holes.
Put the soil from the top
into the bottom of the hole,
place the sucker in the earth.
The base of the sucker is now 10 centimetres
from the surface of the ground.
Put compost round the young plant.
Put the bottom soil on the ground surface.