Banana (Musa sp.) is one of the major fruit crops, cultivated in all warm and humid tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, America, Africa and Australia. While bananas are primarily grown for food, 30-40% of the crop is considered unfit for human consumption and is potentially available for animal feeding. Banana peels and the vegetative parts of the plants are also used in animal feeding.
The banana tree is the tallest herb in the world and can reach up to 9 m. The roots are rhizomatous and adventitious, most developing in the top 15 cm soil layer. Suckers arise from the rhizome. The stem (pseudostem) is cylindrical, made of overlapping leaf-sheaths, 20-50 cm diameter. The leaves are broad blades, 1-4 m long x 0.7-1 m wide, with a pronounced supporting midrib, and grow continuously from the center of the stem. The inflorescence (1 per tree) is horizontal or pendulous. Flowers are unisexual: female flowers develop proximally, male flowers developing at the distal end of the inflorescence. The inflorescence bears 5-15 nodes, each producing 12-20 female flowers. It develops into a 50-150 cm bunch where each node becomes a "hand" of fruits. Fruits may be 6-35 cm long, green, yellow, red or brown, cylindrical or angled, straight or curved, and seeded or seedless depending on the cultivars or landraces (Ecoport, 2010; Ecocrop, 2010; Espino et al., 1991). The banana plant usually blooms after 8-9 months and the fruits are harvested unripe 10 to 14 weeks after flowering. Yields are very variable, ranging from 3 to 60 t/ha, depending on genetics (variety/cultivar, ploidy) and culture conditions (Espino et al., 1991).
Banana is usually grown for its edible fruits. World banana production was 102 million tons in 2010. Globally, it is one of the major fruits, ranking in economic importance after grapes, tomatoes and apples (FAO, 2012).
There are two main groups of bananas:
Bananas whose ripe fruit is eaten as dessert. They represent 56% of world banana production and 97% of exportations, and are mainly from the Cavendish group. They have the highest yields (100 t/ha/year) (Lassoudière, 2007; Arias et al., 2003; Espino et al., 1991)
Bananas used for cooking or making beer. They include plantains and other sub-groups of varieties such as Pisang Awak in Asia, and represent 44% of world banana production (Lassoudière, 2007; Arias et al., 2003). Most plantains belong to the AAB genome group (Lassoudière, 2007).
The ripe fruit is eaten fresh as dessert or baked, fried, dried or roasted. It can also be processed into vinegar, chips, starch or beer. The underground stem and male flowers can be eaten as a vegetable (Espino et al., 1991). The leaves are used for wrapping food for cooking, making clothes and polishing floors. Ethno-medicinal uses of different parts of the banana are plentiful (Espino et al., 1991). Young stalks and leaves, wasted fruits and banana peels are fed to livestock (Ecocrop, 2010; Espino et al., 1991).