Suckers are the young banana plants growing from a mother banana plant. We look at the next steps in banana macro-propagation after constructing a macro-propagation chamber and sterilizing sawdust.
Select banana suckers
There are four types of banana suckers
- Peepers: very young suckers just appearing above the ground. They are not well established so cannot be used for planting.
- Sword suckers: they grow close to the parent banana plant and are heavily attached so have a lot of food. Sword suckers are about 1 m in length. The leaves and the ‘stem’ are sword-like. Sword suckers are good for planting and macro-propagation because the corm has lots of food to supply the newly growing banana plant and its chances of establishing well are high.
- Maiden suckers: they are suckers that are about to flower (normally 5-8 months), they are big and almost the size of the parent banana plant. The sucker’s corm does not have so much food so it does not make good seed.
- Water/orphan suckers: They grow far away from the mother (around 1 m). They are not firm on the ground so they are easy to uproot. The leaves and the stem are of the same shape as the banana mother plant. The corms are full of water with no food, thus, they do not produce healthy bananas and may not survive after planting. Water suckers are not good for planting or macro-propagation.
As seen from the above descriptions, sword suckers make the best seed. The sword sucker has to be selected from a mother plant that is;
- High yielding and produces bunches that are desired for eating or selling
- Healthy, free from diseases and pests . Pests and diseases from a mother plant are easily transferred to the new plants
How to remove a banana sucker
- First sterilize your tools (jembe/ spade/ panga) by cleaning with bleach (Jik) or passing them through fire for 5 minutes
- Dig around the sucker using a spade or a jembe. Take care not to hurt the roots of the mother plant
- When you reach the end of the corm, hold the banana ‘stem’ and pull gently or scoop the sucker using a spade
- Remove a maximum of two suckers per mother plant. Removing many suckers destroys the roots of the mother plant making it unstable and less productive
Pare the banana corms
Paring is cutting round the corm tissues using a sharp knife/panga to remove nematodes and weevils that hide in the roots. This will keep the seedling free from pests and diseases. When paring;
- Cut the outer layer of skin and all the roots diagonally
- Look for any weevil tunnels (paths created by weevils for their feeding) and dig them out with the point of a knife
- Do not cut off the whole corm as it is the one that stores food for seedlings
- Disinfect the pared corms in boiling water for 30 seconds to kill bacteria, fungi and remaining weevils. Immersing the corms in boiling water for more than 30 seconds could damage them. Allow the banana corms to cool
Kill the buds
New seedlings come from buds (growing points). To get as many shoots as possible you have to make sure that there is no dominant bud by manipulating them. These shoots will become your banana seedlings. To manipulate/kill the buds,
- Remove/peel the banana sheaths (cover) next to the corm to reveal a ‘V’. The bud is at the ‘V’ point
- Cut the bud through the centre twice so that you make an ‘X’ (cross-cut)
- Repeat the process of peeling the sheath as you kill the buds by cutting an X until you reach the pith (centre with white sheath)
- Cut through the pith making an ‘X'(cross-cut). This kills the bud that might grow at the centre and allows more shoots to grow instead. This process is called decapitation
Your banana corms are now ready for planting. We will be looking at How to plant banana corms in the macro-propagation chamber