Banana fact file
- 400 million people eat bananas as a staple food
- 130 countries grow bananas, led by India
- 55% increase in production since 2000
- 6 billion dollars worth of annual trade
- 50 tonnes/ha grown in Costa Rica, 2x world average
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) ranks bananas as the world’s fourth most important crop after the major cereals. Bananas are rich in carbohydrate, potassium and vitamins, including A, C, and B6. They are a good source of dietary fibre and are fat-free.
Banana plantations can be fragile environments and soil, water and biodiversity all need special care. Bananas need protecting from weeds, pests and diseases, which flourish if unchecked in tropical climates, so integrated pest management (IPM) approaches are widely used to ensure that crops are protected in a sustainable way. Weed management is central to IPM systems and the non-selective herbicide paraquat has a key role.
In bananas, emphasis is on the management of weeds rather than their permanent removal. Maintaining a balance of weeds in the flora is important for sustainability by IPM techniques and minimising soil erosion though the anchoring effect of plant roots.
Paraquat is very fast acting and rainfast, unlike glyphosate. Weeds sprayed in the morning will often show symptoms by the afternoon, making it easy for spray operators and plantation managers to see which areas have already been sprayed. This holds even if rain falls within 15-30 minutes, making it possible to spray for longer before rain is expected.
Crop safety is especially important while controlling weeds in bananas because the next harvest cycle depends on a new crop of daughter suckers. These are very susceptible to being killed by systemic broad-spectrum herbicides based on glyphosate. Paraquat can be used safely around parent and daughter plants with no fear of accidental spray drift damaging either generation, because it is not systemic, and because it cannot enter roots as it is extremely tightly bound to soil on contact.