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Supplemental Drip Irrigation Increases Banana Yields / January 26, 1998 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Supplemental Drip Irrigation Increases Banana Yields

By Tara Weaver
January 26, 1998

Using drip irrigation to supplement nature's shortcomings in subtropic and humid tropic areas increases banana and plantain production and conserves water, according to scientists at the Tropical Agriculture Research Station in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. The station is part of the USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

Drip irrigation applies small amounts of water frequently, versus overhead or furrow irrigation that delivers large amounts of water at once.

In tropical regions such as Puerto Rico, rainfall intensity decreases considerably during June and July and from January through March. These drought periods may reduce yield and fruit quality.

ARS researchers have been conducting studies in different environments to determine optimum water requirements of plantains and bananas grown with drip irrigation. In the past, growers have had only limited information on optimum water requirements and practical irrigation recommendations for these crops grown under rainfed conditions or in semiarid areas.

Preliminary results show that in the mountain region, banana growers who supplement rainfall with drip irrigation on a 50-acre farm can increase yields by almost 60 percent, which translates to $340,800 in gross sales. In semiarid regions, growers can obtain a net income as high as $3,300 per acre for drip-irrigated bananas.

Water conservation is another advantage of drip irrigation. This technology permits the efficient use of water and can help maximize the use of semiarid lands for agricultural production.

Since the initial studies were conducted in 1988, the researchers have assembled irrigation guidelines for growers and extension agents in a packet, "Technical Package for the Production of Plantain and Banana." Final results from this study in the mountain region will be incorporated in a future revision of the packet.

Scientific contact: Ricardo Goenaga and Heber Irizarry, USDA-ARS, Tropical Agriculture Research Station, P.O. Box 70, Mayaguez, PR 00681, phone (787) 831-3435, fax (787)831-3386, RGOENAGA@ARS-GRIN.GOV.

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