A hot bath for the suckers!

An effective treatment against nematode and weevil pests of banana and plantain

Plantain plant with three sword suckers, field trial on IITA campus, Ibadan, Nigeria. Photo by A. zumFelde, IITA.
Plantain plant with three sword suckers, field trial on IITA campus, Ibadan, Nigeria. Photo by A. zumFelde, IITA.

Banana and plantain (Musa spp.) are important food crops for millions of people all over the world. The banana is the most popular fruit in the world and number one in international trade. The FAO estimates that over 100 million t of banana and plantain were produced worldwide in 2007. In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), over 70 million smallholder farmers depend on the two crops for their food and income.

Banana and plantain production is greatly constrained by pests and diseases that lead to annual losses of millions of US dollars. The most important pests are nematodes (several species) and weevils (Cosmopolites sordidus) that are found in the soil and roots.

Nematodes attack the roots, hampering the uptake of nutrients from the soil and drastically reducing yield. In severe cases, they topple the whole plant. Weevils, on the other hand, attack the plant’s underground corm, weakening the plant and causing stem breakage. Average production losses from nematodes are estimated at 30% of the harvests of highland banana in East Africa and can exceed 60% for plantain in West Africa.

These two pests are spread from one farm to another through the planting of infested suckers. Farmers can avoid infesting their farms by ensuring that they plant disease- and pest-free suckers, such as those derived from tissue culture. These are, however, out of reach for the millions of small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

Farmers dipping peeled suckers in boiling water. Source: D. Coyne, IITA.
Farmers dipping peeled suckers in boiling water. Source: D. Coyne, IITA.

Research has shown that peeling and treating the suckers in hot water, at 50 °C, can effectively remove both nematodes and weevils and their eggs. This method has worked successfully for commercial farms and organized cooperatives but not for small-scale farmers. This is because a thermometer must be used to ensure precision and the right temperature and this is not readily accessible to the farmers in SSA.

IITA’s scientists Danny Coyne and Stefan Hauser have developed an easier method that is just as effective by simply immersing the peeled or unpeeled suckers in boiling water for 20–30 seconds.

The counting
The duration of 20–30 seconds can be achieved by simply counting from 1 to 30. Farmers can also use small objects, such as pebbles, to mark the time: picking the pebbles one by one and placing them in a small container. The counting takes about 1 second/item but farmers can check the time for more accuracy.

This technique has proven to be friendly to small-scale farmers and is better than the hot water treatment at 50 °C as the time taken to treat a sucker is reduced and the measurement of the temperature and timing is simplified. It effectively disinfects suckers of various sizes without affecting their germination

Plantain field planted with suckers treated in boiling water. Photo by A. zumFelde, IITA.
Plantain field planted with suckers treated in boiling water. Photo by A. zumFelde, IITA.

The method is radical and requires skill and care when it is promoted to farmers who may be sceptical at first. The scientists recommend the use of a demonstration plot to introduce the technology and convince farmers to adopt it. They must keep within 30 seconds as otherwise they risk damaging the suckers, especially those that are small-sized.

Although the technology requires a fuel/energy source and the process has to be followed precisely, it is definitely a much easier method to use than the hot water treatment.

Using boiling water to treat the suckers has the potential to improve banana and plantain productivity by eliminating the two pests.

20 thoughts on “A hot bath for the suckers!

  1. ENJOYED THE ARTICLE. PLEASE I HAVE ABOUT 12 HECTARES OF LAND OF WHICH I INTEND PLANT BANANA AND PLANTAIN. MY FARM IS IN KAFANCHAN, KADUNA STATE, NIGERIA.
    1. CAN I GET ABOUT TEN THOUSAND(10,000) OR MORE SUCKERS OF GOOD AND HIGH YIELDING BANANA/PLANTAIN BY APRIL OR MAY 2012?
    2. HOW MUCH DOES A SUCKER COST.
    3. WHAT IS THE MOST APPROPRIATE TIME TO PLACE ORDER FOR THE SUCKERS TO BE SUPPLIED IN APRIL OR MAY 2012.

    THANK YOU
    GSM 08057369687

  2. I ALSO ENJOYED YOUR PUBLICATION, PLEASE I ALSO HAVE A VAST EXPANSE OF LAND IN ADO-ODO/ OTA, OGUN STATE, WHICH I WILL LIKE TO CULTIVATE PLANTAIN AND BANANA ON THEM, PLS HOW CAN I GET THESE HIGH YIELDING SUCKER. LIKE(5,000) OR MORE AND HOW MUCH FOR A SUCKER? PLS CAN I GET THE SUPPLY BY APRIL OR THEREABOUT. THANKS I WILL BE VERY HAPPY TO HEAR FROM YOU.

  3. PLEASE I HAVE ABOUT 10 HECTARES OF LAND OF WHICH I INTEND PLANT BANANA AND PLANTAIN. MY FARM IS IN OLOJUORO ,OFF ACADEMY ,LAGOS /IBADAN EXPRESSWAY IBADAN OYO STATE, NIGERIA.
    1. CAN I GET ABOUT TEN THOUSAND(10,000) OR MORE SUCKERS OF GOOD AND HIGH YIELDING BANANA/PLANTAIN BY APRIL 2012?
    2. HOW MUCH DOES A SUCKER COST.
    3. WHAT IS THE MOST APPROPRIATE TIME TO PLACE ORDER FOR THE SUCKERS TO BE SUPPLIED IN APRIL OR MAY 2012.

  4. Dear Sir,
    I read your articles with much interest,especially with the increasing rate of unemployment in Nigeria. I have 4 hectares of land in Igodan-lisa, okitipupa area of Ondo state and want to go into banana and plaintain farming. Sir, i will like to know more about this area of farming, time of planting,how to get improved suckers and the cost per sucker.
    Thanks.

  5. Pls I want 10,000 plantain suckers in owan west of edo state.pls how much does one cost and hw do I pay and get them thanks

  6. Your article is very educative.
    Please i have a small farm land of about 3 acres i intend to plant plantain for a start.my questions; are when is the best time to plant.
    2. what is the best spacing between suckers
    3. how many suckers do i require per acre of farm land
    Thank you.
    Tola from lagos

  7. What is the price of the suckers for your improved breed of plantain, I intend starting planting early december.Awaiting your timely response.

  8. Dear Sir,
    we have 8 hectare of land where we want to plant Plantain,so please provide me package and practice of Plantain and Banana with their improved variety for lagos area on Ibadan expressway as well as availability of suckers and their price.kindly please send me above mentioned my query so that I will able to proceed for plantain plantation.

    Thanks & Regards
    S.K.Singh

  9. Pls sir i just saw your article and i have one hecter of land at kuja close to gwagwalada in abuja where i intend using for plantain and bannana plantation,pls how much does one sucker cost and how many suckers will be enough for one hecter and when is d right time to plant it incase if i make demands.god bless you sir,looking forward to get your reply.

  10. Am planing to emback on this banana and plantain plantation with 8 plot of land in Bayelsa state (Igbogeni Epie), please i we like to know the cost of each sucker and were to get the best sucker to plant.

  11. I have about two hectares farmland in Ika North East Local Government Area to develop into banana/plantain plantation.kindly send me contact address,e-mail address or/and phone number of an organisation or farm/institute where I can buy improved variety of banana and plantain suckers.

  12. Thank you for your article. I have 5 acres of land and I’m seriously considering plantain cultivation. I have got a local farmer to supply me with suckers. But I will like to know how I can ascertain that these suckers are high yielding and if it is ok to hot bathe the local suckers still.

  13. Good day, please I would like to inquire on how to get an improved plantain suckers, particularly the cost and where to get it. Thanks

    I would also be glad if I can get a forum to access adequate information on plantain farming.

  14. dear sir , pls have 5 acre of land already cleared pls i need good and improved suckers for planting sir pls kindly get back to me thank

  15. My name is princess I have 15 hectares of land in esan in edo state and i want to know the number of plantain suckers ( 2)what are the best chemical to use for the roots before planting? (3) what is the total number of plantain suckers?(4)what is the cost per sucker?(5) and the cost of transportation? (6) what wii be the cost of planting per hectare? When is the best time to plant and what is the waiting period for harvest. My next question is I have five hectares of land & I want to use it to plant banana which is the best banana sucker and the best plantain suckers to buy I want to know the cost pls I need it as soon as possible, because the Have been cleared and burn this month of April thanks God bless.

  16. Ur article was so educative. But I ve about 4 plots of land and seek a viable plantain suckers to plant. pls how can I get it from u and when is the right time to plant?

  17. Effect of sucker decapitation on the growth and disease incident of plantain… pls anyone with idea on this topic should pls forward to my email box. Its my project topic n I can’t find anything good on it.. thanks wizyflow@gmail.com

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