Why aren't my bananas ripening?

I have been growing bananas for decades in East Africa, but in the past few years I have had a lot of trouble even with my mature clumps being able to ripen fruit to full maturation. The bananas stalks also often fall over more easily now than they did in previous years even though the bunch sizes seem to be getting smaller, not heavier. I maintain clumps at only 3-5 stalks per clump and I cut up stalks and put them back on the clump after harvesting the ripe bunch to recycle the nutrients. Can anyone help me figure out if this is a management issue or a disease issue? I depend on both green cooking bananas as well as ripe sweet bananas for my family’s consumption and I sell sweet bananas at market.

The field on which these bananas seems to be highly declined in nutrients to the point of producing the small bunches that I dupe pocketable ‘bunches’. Such bunches are abnormal and often malformed and these are known not to ripen normally. So the main issue here is management. The stalks falling over is a manifestation of Nematode and Banana weevil attack. The the roots are damaged by nematodes and the corms are tunneled up by weevil larvae. Often the corms of such bananas come up to the surface (high Mat) and with little or no push can fall over. High mat can also be caused by severe loss of nutrients in the field.

It is advisable that at any one moment a banana clump should have 3 plants i.e. One mother, One daughter and one grand daughter and not more. At harvest the daughter is elevated to a mother, the once a grand-daughter is elevated to a daughter a and a new grand daughter is selected to continue the process.

It is my general suggestion to replant the field anew using ample manure and clean banana planting materials.

Dr. Alliy Mbwana

Ex-Banana Research Coordinator