About the Crop
Banana (Musa spp.)
Bananas are of the family Musaceae. Globally, bananas rank fourth after rice, wheat
and maize in human consumption; they are grown in 130 countries worldwide, more
than any other fruit crop.
Bananas are native to tropical Southeastern Asia but are widely cultivated in tropical
In 15th and 16th century, Portuguese colonists started banana
plantations in the Atlantic Islands, Brazil, and western Africa. As late as the
Victorian Era, bananas were not widely known in Europe, although they were available
via merchant trade.
Virtually all bananas traded internationally are of a single variety, the Cavendish,
the genetic roots of which lie in India. Three years ago, New Scientist
revealed that the Cavendish crop was threatened by pandemics of diseases such as
that caused by the black sigatoka fungus.
Now the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned that wild banana species
are rapidly becoming extinct as Indian forests are being destroyed, while many traditional
farmers' varieties are also disappearing. It would take a global effort to save
the bananas' gene pool.
The large oblong or elliptic leaf blades are extensions of the sheaths of the pseudostem
and are joined to them by fleshy, deeply grooved, short petioles. The leaves unfurl,
as the plant grows, at the rate of one per week in warm weather, and extend upward
and outward , becoming as much as 9 feet long and 2 feet wide. They may
be entirely green, veins running from the mid-rib straight to the outer edge of
the leaf. Even when the wind shreds the leaf, the veins are still able to function.
Approximately 44 leaves will appear before the inflorescence emerge.