Assessment of commercial fruit crop potential of selected banana (Musa sp.) cultivars in the subtropics of coastal Alabama
Type of DegreeDissertation
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Global demand and increased adaptability of banana cultures has led to the development of a potential niche market for non-Cavendish bananas. This present work was conducted to determine the feasibility of producing banana fruit in the coastal region of Alabama, USA. In the seasons leading to fruit production, several banana cultivars demonstrated suitability for production due to vigor that was similar to banana cultivars produced in other subtropical regions. In the first season cultivars ‘Veinte Cohol’ and ‘Ice Cream’ produced significantly more leaves (39 and 38 leaves-1 plant respectively) than all other medium height banana cultivars. Overall ‘Cardaba’ and ‘Ice Cream’ had the highest number of leaves present (NLP) and produced the highest total number of leaves (TLN). Several cultivars produced mature bunches by the end of the 2015 season: ‘Cardaba’, ‘Gold Finger’, ‘Double’, ‘Grand Nain’, and ‘Sweetheart’. Preliminary findings in cover crops studies have found no increase in soil carbon or organic matter supplied by Hairy Vetch or Crimson Clover and had no significant effect on growth of ‘Mysore’ banana plants compared to the bare ground treatment. Reflective mulch treatments resulted in yields that were consistently, numerically higher than the control treatment but these differences were not significant. Several cultivars have exhibited adaptability to the gulf coast region of Alabama and hence hold promise as being part and parcel of a banana niche market. More research must be conducted such as extended phenological studies and a precise determination of responses to critically low temperatures to assess banana cultivar’s ability to produce mature bunches before the first frost in coastal Alabama, and the effect of innovative cultural practices to reduce inputs and increase sustainability.