Years have passed since certified tissue culture banana seedlings were introduced into the country and early adopters are already enjoying the fruits of the productive planting materials.
In 2016, Jane Njuguna, a banana farmer from Nakuru County decided to attend a farmer training event on fruit production and her venture has never remained the same.
She changed from growing suckers from indigenous banana varieties to planting tissue culture seedlings upping her production from 20 to 120 kilos a bunch.
Jane who has about 1.25 acres of the farm under the crop says she got the idea from colleagues about free training on tissue culture banana production at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and she gladly grabbed the opportunity something which has changed her way of production.
“Three years ago, my farm used to produce very small bunches of bananas that were doing badly in the market. This was stressful because after strenuous work for a long time, I could only realise Sh400 per bunch of a banana,” said Jane.
Generally, tissue-culture bananas produce fruits in 340 days as compared to 420 days for ordinary bananas.
After the training, she decided to uproot all her indigenous banana plants and replaced them with the new varieties having bought some tissue culture seedlings from the training. She also dug a water pan within her farm to enable her to collect run-off water during rainy seasons to water the crop during drought.
“Bananas need regular watering to sustain the large tropical leaves and produce sweet tasty fruit,” said Jane, “I water slowly and deeply every 2 or 3 days during the warmer months as the deficits of water could adversely affect crop growth and yields.”
Experts assert that bananas require an average of 4 to 6 inches of water each month, or about 1 to 1.5 inches per week, depending on the season. However, farmers should take note because overwatering can cause root rot hence they should make sure the soil drains well and does not have standing water.
Currently, the farmer has over 160 plants and she can harvest up to 50 bunches weighing 120-125 kilos a month. These she sells to wholesale markets and grocers in Nakuru Town at Sh20 per kilo translating to Sh120,000-125,000 a month.
“There is a great demand for the product in the market. I cannot remember even a single day I have taken my bananas to the market and come back with them or sold at a throw-away price,” said Jane who also works with the Green Initiative movement in the county to inspire residents to conserve the environment through agricultural proper practices.
She plans to come up with a banana tissue culture lab in the area either individually or in cooperation with other growers to help all farmers access best performing plantlets.
“At the moment I am helping other growers with the best ideas on how to improve their production by planting healthy and high yielding planting materials. In the future, I would like to set tissue culture seedlings lab to enable the growers to find the materials locally without having to travel far away.”