How to Grow Plantain and Make Money: Part 3 of 3

This is part 3. If you haven’t read part 1 and 2, read them here: Part 1 and part 2.

Fertilizer and Manure Application:

After planting the suckers, I applied 20:10:10 fertilizer 1 month after planting. Dosage is 30ml per plant. By this time, new, white roots have started growing. I buried the fertilizer in a shallow hole 10-20cm away from the plants, making sure I don’t damage too much roots. Note: I applied Carbofuran (for nematode control) into the same hole with the NPK. More on Carbofuran later under “pesticide application” below.

Second NPK application can be made 2 months after planting, 50cm away from the plant. I used 30ml 20:10:10 per plant but those that were growing fast got 60ml.

About 1 month or so after the second NPK application, I planned applying organic manure at 11L pig manure per plant but I couldn’t get the manure on time, So I replaced with NPK. But if you are using manure, apply it in a heap about 20cm away from the plant. It shouldn’t be too close to the plant so that it won’t burn the plant. Manures are important because they contain NPK in addition to micro and secondary nutrients like zinc, copper, selenium, manganese etc. Without these micro and secondary nutrients, your plants won’t thrive.

If you like, you can use only manure and ignore NPK – as long as you can apply enough manure. I later found out that manure alone serve well. I heap about 15L of manure beside the plants.

Importance of Mulch in a Plantain Farm:

Mulches may be dry organic matters such as dry grass, dry leaves etc or inorganic matters like plastic sheets used in covering the soil. Organic mulches will help boost yield even in nematode infected soils (this have been scientifically proven). Without organic matters, the plantation won’t last for more than a year without drastic drop in yield. Mulch and manure are important sources of organic matters. So use them.

Mulches keep the soil cool, encourage root growth, supply nutrients and provide conducive environment for nematode-eating microbes to thrive. Mulch will also lead to “tremendous” increase in yield even without fertilization. One experiment recorded this using elephant grass mulch at 80 tons per hectare.

Keep mulches 60cm away from the plant. If you place mulch too close to the plant, the roots will tend to grow under the mulch rather than growing deep into the soil. This will lead to shallow roots and toppling during strong wind. To be effective, mulches should cover the ground completely. So make it thick.

You can grow your own mulch or get them from surrounding bushes. Plants you can grow as mulch include elephant grass and Fleminga congesta. For me, I grow elephant grass for mulch. During harvest, you can also use the plants’ stems and leaves as mulch.

Weeding:

You can hand weed, but it is better to kill weeds with herbicides. A good herbicide for plantain farm is glyphosate and paraquat. I kept the farm weed free with glyphosate herbicide. You don’t need to be afraid because the plants won’t die even if you mistakenly spray them. I once tried killing some unwanted plantain suckers with glyphosate spray but nothing happened. They just kept on growing as if nothing happened. Paraquat on the other hand, will damage the leaves but won’t kill the plant. Paraquat kill weeds by contact. It burn them chemically but some of the weeds may grow back. Glyphosate on the other hand kills weeds systematically. The weeds will absorb it and it will kill them from inside out. So the weeds won’t grow back. Both herbicides are important because they all have their strength and weaknesses. After using glyphosate for a long time, I notice that it doesn’t kill some stubborn weeds. With time, these stubborn weeds will dominate and I’ll need paraquat to kill them off.

Mulches also help to suppress weeds. The plantain leaves will form a canopy 5-6 months after planting and the resulting shade will also help control/minimize weeds. Using hoes and cutlass to weed is not recommended because many roots will be damaged. Plantains have shallow roots.

De-suckering:

Suckers are young plantain plants that grow beside the main plant (called mother plant). If you leave them, they will seriously decrease your yield. To get big bunches, search for suckers (when they are still small) and kill them. Do so every week or two. Here is how to kill them. Cut them at a point slightly above ground level as shown below.

Use a pointed knife to remove part of the growing point in the middle to make a depression.

Make the depression as big as possible and pour kerosene into it. The sucker won’t die if you don’t use enough kerosene. I made this mistake twice.

Desuckering plantain

Instead of kerosene, you can use a long knife or spade to kill the underground corms of the sucker. But the kerosene method is easier and less harmful to the mother plant. It is also more reliable. So go for it. According to research, early desuckering is important to get higher yield. Don’t allow suckers to exceed 15-20cm in height before you kill them. After flowering, allow 1 replacement sucker to grow.

Pruning:

As new leaves emerge, older leaves dies and hang around the pseudostem. Not pruning them (i.e. cutting them off) can lead to spread of pests and diseases. Pruning also exposed unwanted suckers. Use the prunned leaves as mulch.

Pesticide Application:

Once per month or so, I apply a mixture of insecticides, fungicides and foliar fertilizers on the leaves. Pesticides I used:

1. Fungicides: Saaf (carbendazim + mancozeb), Control Total (Hexaconazole) plus Mancozeb.

2 Insecticides: Imidacloprid, Fipronil, Chlorpyrifos and Abamectin. Note: Use one insecticide at a time.

3. Foliar Fertilizer: Haifa bonus NPK.

The above are list of pesticides I used, I did not use all of them at once. Sample pesticides mix I used at once are:

1. Imidacloprid + Saaf + Haifa.

2. Hexaconazole + Mancozeb + Abamectin + Haifa.

3. Saaf + Chlorpyrifos + Haifa.

I forgot to mention that I also add aspirin tablets into the pesticide mix. It helps in boosting plants’ immunity against diseases. You can read more about it here:

How to Reduce Pest Attacks on Crops with Aspirin

Nematicide:

I used Furadan 3G. This is a product containing 3% Carbofuran mixed with sand. It is applied to the soil just like NPK fertilizer. The plants’ roots will absorb it and distribute it to various parts of the plant. It helps to control stubborn insects like plantain corm borers, aphids, thrips etc. It also controls nematodes that attack plantain roots. More on this under “pest and diseases”

I used 1kg Furadan 3G for 15 plants (I got this recommendation from a science research paper). This dose should be repeated every 4 months (if you are relying only on Furadan for nematode control). I saw some websites that recommend applying Carbofuran into the planting holes. I don’t support this because the presence of manure means high population of microbes that will eat up the Carbofuran.

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