An information system of tropical crops in Hawaii
Department of Tropical Plant & Soil Sciences
University of Hawaii at Manoa



Other Links

Banana, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
Banana, Malayasia Ministry of Agriculture
Banana--General crop information, Knowledge Master, CTAHR
Banana bunchy top virus, CTAHR
Banana insects, pests, and plant disease pathogens, Knowledge Master, CTAHR
Fruit Technology Banana (Musa paradisiaca), Dept. of Agriculture Malaysia
Home Fruit Production - Banana, Texas A&M University
Known Susceptibilities of Musaceae, (Banana viruses), Australian National University


Computerized Banana Cost of Analysis

Banana Cost Analysis File

Dr. Kent Fleming,, Tropical Plant & Soil Sciences Dept., CTAHR, (808-322-9136), developed this program to help farmers determine their costs and profits. You will need a spreadsheet program such as Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, etc. to run the cost analysis file.

Cost of Analyis Spreadsheet


The high cost of land, equipment, structure, operations, and interest rates have adversely affected feasibility of starting new farms, expansions and maintaining existing farms. High costs may discourage farmers from seeking credit as well as lenders extending credit when project is not feasible. However, viable farmers with financial stability and repayment ability generally should not find it difficult to obtain financing. Farms situated on the rift zone area of the Big Island (about 25% of the island's banana farms) have experienced difficulty in obtaining loans from certain lenders.

There are viable agricultural cooperatives with access to capital sources. The ability of a cooperative to raise capital is a reflection of factors such as financial position, earnings, ability to repay, etc. Adequate commitment by farmer-members is very critical. What appears to be lacking is an adequate understanding of cooperatives by farmers. To enhance the effectiveness of cooperatives, there is a need for continuing education and training and effective guidance of new and existing cooperatives. The State's Agricultural Loan Program includes loans to cooperatives of up to $500,000 for facility and $300,000 for operating purposes.

Understanding amongst farmers of the sources and use of farm financing is not good.

Many farmers do not keep the records necessary to obtain financing.

New farmers with personal and/or family assets that can be used to help finance their enterprises will find it easier to get financing from lenders.

The Farmers Home Administration has a new entry loan program. The FmHA should be contacted for more information.

The State's Agricultural Loan Program, governed by Chapter 155, HRS, is intended to assist farmers who are unable to secure loans from private lenders or the Farmers Home Administration. The program is also intended to maximize use of limited State funds and resources and to meet the needs of qualified farmers of all commodities.

Act 22, SLH 1979, adjusted the interest rates of DOA farm loans to be comparable with rates of applicable Farm Credit Banks, except for emergency loans and loans to new farmers and cooperatives. The legislative intent is that viable farmers should secure financing from conventional sources.

The DOA Farm Loan Program has a $100,000 ceiling on new farmer loans. Additional financing up to a total of $200,000 can be obtained later from the DOA if the farmer shows that he is operating a viable farm and he is a good risk for additional financing.

Where the cost of the project exceeds the DOA loan ceiling, in many instances, the DOA has been able to bring in other lenders to participate in financing.

Extending information on loan programs and assisting farmers secure financing from State and other sources has been the on-going function of the DOA Agricultural Loan Division. The CTAHR, primarily through its extension agents, has assisted by referring loan inquiries to the DOA.

The time between the application for Disaster Loans and payment may range from three weeks to one year. Delays are usually caused by failure of the applicant to provide the necessary requirements needed to secure the loans.

There is a general need for farmers to be knowledgeable in financing management and the use of credit. Training programs in farm and financial management on a continuing basis is needed.


All the major commercial banana cultivars in the world are present in Hawaii. These include:

  1. 'Brazilian' (erroneously referred to as 'Apple') and 'Chinese' ('Dwarf Cavendish') imported from Tahiti in 1855.

  2. 'Bluefields' ('Gros Michel') imported from Nicaragua in 1904 by CTAHR.

  3. 'Williams' ('Giant Cavendish') and 'Cocos' ('Dwarf Bluefields') imported from Australia and Guatemala, respectively, in 1953 by CTAHR (College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources).

  4. 'Philippine Lakatan' imported from the Philippines in 1958 by CTAHR.

  5. 'Hamakua' ('False Lakatan') and 'Valery' ('Robusta') have long been present in Hawaii. Both were introduced from Puerto Rico more than 50 years ago under different names. 'Valery' has been in Hawaii at least 40 years under the names 'Congo', 'North', and 'Taiwan'. It is similar to 'Williams' but taller and therefore, more susceptible to wind damage.

The latest banana cultivar imported from Brazil in 1979 is a dwarf mutant form of 'Brazilian' known as 'Santa Catarina Silver' ('Dwarf Brazilian'). It has fruit characteristics similar to 'Brazilian', but the plant is only about half as tall. This makes it of great interest to growers because it is easier to manage than the tall 'Brazilian' and has been shown in several recent storms to be tolerant to wind damage.

The Hawaii Banana Industry Association (HBIA) is responsible for propagating and distributing this new cultivar. Propagation is by both tissue culture and conventional methods. To date, thousands of plants have been distributed to commercial growers, who have first priority. Enquiries on distribution should be addressed to the HBIA.

There are no outstanding new commercial banana cultivars in other parts of the world, so introduction of new varieties does not presently appear to be a very promising research approach.

Important commercial banana cultivars presently grown in Hawaii listed in order of commercial importance are:

  1. Cavendish group ('Williams', 'Valery', 'Chinese').
  2. 'Brazilian' (and 'Dwarf Brazilian').
  3. 'Bluefields' (and 'Cocos'). Acreage of this group is decreasing because of susceptibility to Panama wilt.

There appears to be a demand for cooking bananas or plantains. The potential size of this demand is now known. Also not known is the specific cultivar preferred by consumers.

Little is known of differences in optimum cultural requirements of many of the cultivars grown in Hawaii. Many of the minor cultivars are susceptible to Panama wilt.

'Dwarf Lakatan' ('Berangan') imported from Malaysia in 1972 by CTAHR.

Current Status

Until 1968, Hawaii's banana industry supplied 100% of the local market, but from 1968, the industry's share of the market declined until it only had 33% in 1980. There appears to be a trend towards recovery except for 31% in1983 due to storm damage.

The market share increased to 43% in 1985 with production at 8.1 million pounds. Farm value also increased to $2.4 million.

Banana production in February 1, 1986 among counties was as follows: Oahu, 43%; Hawaii, 36%; Kauai, 15%; and Maui/Molokai, 6%. Eighty percent ofthe 'Brazilian' variety acreage was on Oahu, while 56% of the 'WilliamsHybrid' acreage was on the island of Hawaii.

Using the 1985 import figures of 10.8 million pounds and the state average yield of 10,200 pounds per acre, Hawaii can accommodate another 1,058 acres before it reaches market saturation. The actual acreage would probably be less than 1,058 because new orchards should yield more than 10,200 pounds per acre. In May, 1986, banana farmers received an average of 30.5 cents a pound. (Source of figures: Hawaii Agricultural Statistical Service.)

The fixed elements of Hawaii's banana industry are:

The components of a banana system in Hawaii are:




Three major types of bananas -- local Brazilian (erroneously referred to in the trade as 'Apple'), local Cavendish group (Chinese, Williams, and Valery), and imported Valery - are sold in the Honolulu retail market. Although each banana cultivar has appeal to consumers, the selling characteristic of overriding importance in the Honolulu market is quality.

A quality banana meets grade AA (Hawaii Fancy) standards and has been preconditioned to a color range of more yellow than green to yellow. Imported bananas meet these criteria and set the quality standard in the Honolulu market. Quality is a factor in the advances imported bananas are making in the local market, and most local bananas do not meet these quality criteria (although it can be done).

In addition to buying the top grade local bananas, the wholesalers and retailers also buy and sell off-grade local bananas. This practice causes the consumers to have a low opinion of local bananas. Much of the off-grades come from backyard growers; commercial growers usually deliver only No. 1's and No.2's. Although they are paid less for No. 2's, there is no grade or price differential at the retail level.

Honolulu retailers have indicated that they would prefer to handle local bananas and support the local industry if they are consistently supplied with good quality fruit that are competitively priced. Thus, aside from quality considerations, there are not enough local bananas available to supply the Honolulu market.

There are indications that some banana farms are operating at below "economically feasible" levels because of low yields. Some growers are part-time or have other crops on their farms and so do not put in the necessary time and other resources needed to produce a good crop. Another reason for the low yields is that some orchards are on inferior lands which do not lend themselves to good cultural practices. Banana yields can be improved by rejuvenating old orchards and establishing higher yielding new orchards.

Banana yields of 12,000, 15,000, and 35,000 pounds per acre can be obtained for Brazilian, Bluefields, and Cavendish cultivars, respectively, with reasonable management practices. Good growers, under optimum condtions, report yields a high as 75,000 lb/acre. If Hawaii banana growers obtained such yields per acre and if some lost acreages are put back into banana production, Hawaii appears to have the potential to produce 100% of its banana needs.

While the potential of the industry is to meet 100% of the state needs throughout the year, a preferable target for the industry to strive for, to avoid the gluts and shortages due to seasonality, is to meet 90% of the state's demand for bananas. Wind damage is a factor in seasonality. The average monthly production low (in April) is 363,000 pounds and high (in October) is 539,000 pounds. In order to supply about 90% of the market during the low production months of January through June, there may be a surplus during the high production months of July through December. This may cause reduced prices to farmers, store specials, and more bananas exported (especially to Cananda, where no treatment is required).

There are no biological or physical constraints to achieving the increased level of production with a consistent supply of good quality bananas. The root borer, a new pest limited to parts of Oahu, Molokai, and Maui, can cause yield reductions if allowed to spread and populations allowed to build up. Infested fields can be treated with approved insecticides. An expansion in banana acreage is expected in the Puna area. About 308 additional acres is needed (at 35,000 lb./acre) to replace current inshipments.

This assessment of the banana industry relates exclusively to its use as fresh fruit. Some fruit is currently sold for use as a starch vegetable. The size and nature of this market and the potential for growing the cultivars specifically adapted for cooking is not known and should be investigated. Many of these cultivars are known to be susceptable to nematodes and Panama wilt fungus.

Hawaii Banana, Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service


Black Leaf Streak

Black leaf streak, caused by the fungus Mycosphaerella fijiensis, can be a very serious banana disease with losses as high as 30% during wet weather in the winter. Regular application of a high refined low sulfur missible oil plus Dithane FZ fungicide will keep this fungus in check. The main disadvantage is that the oil will cause water-soaked, blister-like spots on the fruits. Damage to the fruits can be prevented by covering the bunch with plastic bags. If the fungicides are applied with a mist blower, damage to the fruit can be prevented. This spray program requires 2 applications: once with oil and other with Dithane. Other banana growing areas of the world may use chemicals (e.g., Bravo) not cleared in the U.S. to control this fungus.

The schedule of spray application recommended is every three weeks during wet periods and every six weeks during extended dry periods. The frequency also varies according to farm location.

Efficacy studies have been completed for Bravo (chlorthalonil), and the results have been submitted to the manufacturer. The main problem now is the lack of worker exposure data when applied by hand. If the label only permits aerial application, it will not benefit most of the banana growers in Hawaii. It would appear that in order for the Bravo registration process to continue, new studies would have to be initiated on worker exposure.

New equipment for pesticide application is a major key to the solution of this problem. In Latin-American banana production areas, it has been demonstrated that pesticides applied with a mist blower is the most effective method for controlling fungus diseases. The principal problem for the grower is renovation of the plantings to facilitate movement of equipment within the orchard.

The terrain of some banana lands does not make mechanical spraying very easy. Many small farmers spray with knapsack sprayers or long hoses attached to power sprayers. Easier and more effective spraying methods (e.g., mist blowers) need to be utilized.


The fungus Phyllostictina musarum causes freckle, a fruit disease which seriously affects the appearance of the fruit and may cause a finger rot in advanced stages. This disease seems to be more of a problem with the 'Brazilian' cultivar. Regular applications of Benlate (Benomyl) at the rate of 2.0 oz. a.i. in at least 5 gallons of spray/acre with mist blower can be an effective control measure. The use of a plastic bag cover over the bunch may in the long run be the most economical control for the freckle. Panama wilt is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. cubense and affects only susceptible varieties like 'Bluefields' and many of the Hawaiian cooking bananas.

Cucumber Mosaic

There are a few other fungi and virus complexes which together are of minor importance. If cucumber mosaic is found, the whole mat which contained the infected plant should be take out. Hawaii is fortunate in that it does not have some of the viruses that occur in other areas.


Seven different nematodes are parasitic on banana in Hawaii: burrowing (Radopholis similis), reniform (Rotylenchulus reniformis), ring (Criconemoides sphaerocephelus), spiral (Helicotylenchus dihystera), root knot (Meloidogyne incognita), lesion (Pratylenchus coffeae), and stunt (Tylenchorhynchus sp.). The burrowing nematode is the most destructive and can be considered a major pest of banana in Hawaii causing decline in production in old orchards. They reduce the root support of banana plants, making them more susceptible to blow-downs.

The origin of nematode problems is the introduction of infested planting material into fields. Corms should be pruned and treated with hot water (122oF - 126oF for 15 to 20 minutes). Irrigation water can also be a source of contamination.

Infested fields must be cleared of all banana residue and left fallow for 6 months before replanting. Some growers may not appear to have sufficient area to fallow or to put in an alternative crop, but increased yields per acre resulting from reduced nematode populations could justify keeping land out of banana production temporarily. The alternative crop should not be a member of the Musaceae or Araceae family.

Nematicides are not generally used in banana production in Hawaii even though nematode damage can be severe in Cavendish bananas. NEMACUR is very effective and was used in the past. The registration was withdrawn because of potential hazard to humans walking on treated soil, since it was applied on the surface as a granular material. It is possible that the chemical can be registered if it is stipulated that the material be cultivated into the soil. Mobay Chemical Corp., the manufacturer, appears interested in that possibility and will support registration through the IR-4 program.

Planting designs may have to be modified in Hawaii because of the requirement for chemical contact with soil surface and reduction of worker exposure.

Both FURADAN 5% G, MOCAP EC, and MOCAP 10% GRANULAR are approved insecticides with nematicidal properties. The efficacy of the chemicals is rated only fair.


In summary, the following fungicides are registered for use on bananas in Hawaii:

Banana bunchy top virus, CTAHR
Hawaii Pesticide Information Retrieval System, CTAHR
Banana insects, pests, and plant disease pathogens, Knowledge Master, CTAHR

Industrial Organization

There are three banana associations providing some coordinated research, education and marketing effort for the development of the banana industry. These associations are:


The Hawaii Banana Industry Association (HBIA) was organized in 1969 with membership from all islands. In 1984, there were 60 members in the association. The HBIA sponsors an annual conference to conduct official business and to provide information to its members. The president for 1986-87 is: Eddie Emoto (Maui). The state association may increase its influence if it had greater involvement of those involved in processing and marketing.


The Oahu Banana Growers Association (OBGA) was organized in 1964 and is the most active banana organization with regular monthly meetings. The OBGA has worked closely with the CTAHR in banana research projects conducted at the Waimanalo Experimental Farm. The Association assists in determining research needs as well as in providing financial assistance in conducting banana research. Banana promotional programs with DPED were conducted through OBGA in 1977-79. Scott Chun is president of the organization (1985-86).

On the Big Island, the Big Island Banana Growers Association is an active group (President: Lynn Richardson).

The banana cooperative in Waimanalo is not in operation presently because of insufficient amount of fruit available for procesing. There has to be sufficient production within a short distance from the processing facility in order to activate the cooperative.



Thrips are the major insect pest affecting bananas, especially during the dry season. Fruit losses of 30% can occur if orchards are not sprayed to control thrips. Spraying with diazinon once a month will control thrips.

Insects, including thrips, appear to be getting resistant to diazinon. New chemicals need to be screened; however, there are none in sight. Growers in Central America use plastic bunch covers containing insecticides and appear to have good control.

The thrips species found on damaged bananas was identified as Elixothrips brevisetis (Bagnall), a species not previously reported to damage bananas. Test for thrips control on banana fruit using polythylene bags impregnated with Chlorpyrifos were conducted on the Big Island. Preliminary results showed that the bags were effective. Good residue data to support registration has been developed; residues were non-detectable in most cases and within tolerance limits when found. HBIA may be asked to serve as the registrant. Local chemical distributors could also be registrants. CTAHR can assist in the registration petition.

Funding was allocated from the previous Industry Analysis for field studies, but none was allocated for residue analysis. To date, $13,000 was expended by CTAHR's Residue Analysis Laboratory in support of the registration request. This amount should be reimbursed to defray the cost of replacing analytical supplies and equipment.

Banana Leaf Roller

The banana leaf roller, a serious pest in the past, is being controlled by parasites introduced by the Department of Agriculture.

Sevin, which is an effective insecticide against the Chinese rose beetle, is no longer registered. Young plants may be more vulnerable now.

Fruit Flies

In recent years, the Hawaiian banana industry has become interested in exporting bananas to the U.S. mainland. However, without an adequate quarantine treatment to prevent fruit flies from being transported to the mainland, export of Hawaiian bananas will not be feasible. The need for an alternative to the EDB fumigation quarantine treatment prompted Dr. J. Armstrong of USDA-ARS (Hilo) to start investigating this problem in 1977. Currently, fresh bananas cannot go to the mainland from Hawaii.

Early infestation studies with 'Brazilian' bananas showed green fruits at harvest maturity (ripeness stages 1-2 on the United Fruit Sales Corporation Consumer Color Preference chart for bananas) could not be infested in the laboratory with Mediterranean fruit fly, melon fly, or oriental fruit fly. Induced infestation studies were done using all three species of flies on 'Brazilian', 'Valery', and 'Williams' bananas. The results showed that all three fruit fly species would sting all ripeness Field studies with ripeness stage 1 indicated that all three species would sting the fruit, but no eggs were deposited.

Field samples of 'Williams' and 'Valery' at ripeness stage 1 taken for 1 year from a commercial planting showed no natural infestation inspite of high populations of melon fly and oriental fruit fly.

Dr. Armstrong suggests that the three cultivars of Hawaiian-grown bananas be allowed to be shipped to the U.S. mainland markets at ripeness stages 1 and 2 without any quarantine treatment for fruit flies. Japan, which has strict quarantine laws, will allow importation of mature green bananas from Hawaii upon certification. Mature green bananas have long been allowed into the U.S. from Central America inspite of the presence of many fruit fly species. The main concern of USDA Plant Protection and Quarantine (APHIS) is the oriental fruit fly, which does not occur in Central America. If the industry plans to export bananas to the mainland, it must make a formal request to APHIS and develop acceptable fly-free fruit handling procedures. The final step involves public hearings to change current restrictions against Hawaiian bananas.


The spiraling whitefly, which used to be a threat to the banana industry, is being controlled biologically by introduced bio-control agents.

Banana Root Borer

The banana root borer is a relatively new insect pest. Limited field trials indicate that carbofuran (Furadan) reduces adult numbers. Literature indicated that Mocap and Lorsban (chlorpyrifos) are similarly effective. Mocap is registered, and Lorsban is not. Another chemical, Pirimicid (pirimiphos-ethyl), has been reported to be quite effective in several areas of the world. Unfortunately, the chemical company does not seem interested in obtaining further registrations in the U.S. Carbofuran and Mocap are being recommended in Hawaii because they also have nematicidal ability.

The root borer is found in windward Oahu and Honolulu, Molokai, and the Waihee area of Maui. DOA regulations require that corms be trimmed, visually inspected for infestation, and treated with hot water prior to export from infested islands. Trialtreatments with methyl bromide have not been effective (borers survived while corms did not).

Preliminary studies (Gettman. 1984. Control of the Banana Root Borer in Banana Planting Stock. PROC. 16TH. ANN H.B.I.A. CONF.) showed that a treatment of 43.3 oC for 3 hours is sufficient to kill all stages found in the center of corms 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Further studies could be done on increase of exposure period, corm size, and plant mortality.

Fruit Piercing Moth

Bananas imported into Hawaii from foreign areas can bring with them serious new pests (e.g., mealy bugs from Central America). The fruit piercing moth, Eodocima fullonia (Clerck), was first discovered in the state January, 1985. Although the adult feeds mainly on fruits and causes scarring in the process, no damage on bananas has been reported in the state to date. This could be due to the presence of other prefered host plants and predatory wasps.


A summary of the insecticides cleared for bananas are:

     (a)  For Weevils:          FURADAN 5% G

     (b)  For Caterpillars:     THURICIDE HPC AQUEOUS CONCENTRATE 
                                THURICIDE 32B
                                SOK-BT LIQUID CONCENTRATE
                                SOK-BT WETTABLE POWDER

     (c)  For Borings Beetles:  MOCAP 10% GRANULAR


Some growers have reported mite problems. There is no miticide registered in Hawaii currently. Plastic bunch covers do not appear to help.

Sugarcane Bud Moth

Some Big Island growers report severe fruit scarring caused by the sugarcane bud moth caterpillar, Decadarchis flavistriata (Wals.). The insect feeds on the decaying flowers, but can be controlled by existing insecticides.

Hawaii Pesticide Information Retrieval System, CTAHR
Banana insects, pests, and plant disease pathogens, Knowledge Master, CTAHR


Over 90% of the banana farms on the Big Island are not irrigated (because of lack of water sources for irrigation), while most of the farms on the other islands are irrigated. In Puna, a 1 million-gallon lined reservoir costs $35,000, while wells cost $300/ft. to drill. During dry periods, about 6,000 gallons may be required per acre per week for supplemental irrigation.

Growers in the Waimanalo Irrigation District feel that conservation measures during the dry summer months are detrimental to their crops. The flume supplying the water breaks frequently and the delivery system needs to be overhauled. A better water management policy is needed to replace conservation.

With present knowledge, it is possible to achieve 65% efficiency with furrow irrigation, 80% efficiency with sprinkler irrigation, and 90% or more efficiency with drip irrigation. (Efficiency is defined as amount of water in root zone/amount applied).

Drip irrigation experiments conducted at the Waimanalo Experimental Farm have shown that yields of over 80,000 pounds of marketable bananas per acre per year can be realized with the application of 10 gallons of water per mat per day. With the application of 2 gallons of water per mat per day, 40,000 pounds of marketable bananas per acre per year can be realized. The relationship between banana yield and water application rates has been determined. Yields as high as 100,000-120,000 pounds per acre were obtained in the first and second year only. Yields dropped in later years due to wind damage and nematodes.

Studies on pan evaporation showed that the banana plant will achieve satisfactory growth and fruit production when irrigated according to a pan factor of one. Irrigation with amounts greater than pan evaporation will not necessarily increase yields, but yields are adversely affected when irrigated less than pan evaporation.

The results from the drip irrigation wetting patterns experiment indicate that the banana plant requires water to be uniformly distributed to the entire area of the mat in its early stages of development. As the mat develops and increases in size, this is not as critical; however, uniform distribution of water is recommended. In order to achieve proper distribution of the irrigation water for optimum growth and yields, a lateral line should be placed on each side of the mat and extended the entire length of the row.

A drip irrigation system using low cost surface water requires effective filtration systems. Experiments with "micro-jet" systems (small sprinklers) were initiated using filtered (screened) ditch water. The "micro-jet" systems are similar to drip systems in many ways but they are not as subject to plugging as drip systems.

Plugging decreases as the orifice size of micro-jet emiters increases:

          orifice size (in.)    plugging (%)

                0.02                 35
                0.03                 20
                0.04                  3

Particle size from Waimanalo irrigation ditch water ranges from 2 to 40 microns, with a mean of 4 microns. The screen size used in the experiments is 100 mesh, which is equivalent to 140 microns. This size is much smaller than the 0.02-inch orifice size which has an equivalent size of 500 microns. This shows that the plugging is not caused by the particle size but by the sedimentation of particles around the orifice and from a so-called "bridge effect." Orifice sizes larger than 0.04 inches appear to be too big to form the "bridge effect" so that plugging caused by sedimentation cannot be created.

Water cost can be expensive when domestic water is used. One Waimanalo farmer, farming 8 acres, indicated that his water cost with drip system using domestic water was $600 per month. Even at $600 per month, he believed he was not applying sufficient water. With a switch to a sprinkler irrigation system which uses agricultural water, his water bill dropped to $50 per month.

The upkeep requirements of drip irrigation systems are high. Ants have been known to cause damage to the tubes. Drip needs constant attention and some growers may not have the time to invest in maintenance. Growers on hilly terrain have problems with drip systems. On rocky land on the Big Island, water from drip systems tend to flow straight down and not effectively reach the root system.

The Board of Water Supply has imposed a high meter charge to discourage increased water use on Oahu. The same is true on Maui.


Most banana growers use family labor. Depending upon the cultivar and method of cultivation, it takes about 2 men to operate a 10-acre banana farm.

Because of being part-time, having responsibilities to other crops, or being retired, some growers do not provide the labor inputs required to obtain high quality fruit and/or the potential yields of their orchards.

On the Big Island, it is believed that such inefficient growers will abandon banana production. The new entries in the banana industry appear to be serious full-time growers. Between 1980 and 1984, the average size of a banana farm increased from 6.4 acres to 10.3 acres, while the state average was 4.6 acres and 5.5 acres, respectively.

On Oahu, the inefficient banana growers remain in production and continue to cause marketing problems by putting low quality fruits on the market. Between 1980 and 1984, the average farm size on Oahu did not change significantly from 4.7 - 4.8 acre.


Unless the current average yields (10,200 lb/acre) of existing banana lands can be increased, about 1,058 additional acres will be required to achieve State self-sufficiency in banana production. At 35,000 lb./acre, only 308 additional acres would be required.

The low yields per acre (6,600 lb/A for Brazilian, 7,030 lb/A for Bluefields, and 13,300 lbs/A for Cavendish result from various factors such as:

  1. Poor cultural and management practices.

  2. Banana orchards are on lands with short-term leases (some are month-to-month leases) which do not allow growers to qualify for loans to make improvements.

  3. Orchards are located on inferior lands. Some orchards are on land that are too steep and rocky to mechanize. Some orchards do not have water for irrigation. Some orchards are located in areas that are too windy and/or wet. Some orchards do not receive sufficient sunlight.

New lands that can be intensively cultivated are needed to increase banana production, while old orchards in marginal lands can be abandoned. New producers also need to acquire land necessary to establish new farms. A banana farm of 10 to 20 acres (8 to 16 acres in crop) is considered adequate to fully support a typical farm family, depending upon ecological conditions (soil, topography, water and temperature), level of management, extent of out-of-pocket-costs for labor, and land costs. Some general requirements which new lands must have are:

  1. Long-term leases of greater than 20 years. (Banks will not give long-term loans of less than 15 years.)

  2. Terrain suitable for mechanization.

  3. Low cost water for irrigation.

  4. Protection from wind to minimize blow-downs.

  5. High sunlight and temperature (low elevation).

On Oahu, the Waimanalo Agriculture Park is the big hope for additional land. It is expected that farmers in the Agriculture Park will realize yields of 35,000 lbs. per acre (with Cavendish cultivars). However, Phase I of the Park, comprising 125 acres, is not exclusively for bananas but includes other crops. All 14 lots have been leased out, and Phase II has started. Rental of privately owned farm land ranges from $100 to $200 per acre per month. Oahu sites require supplemental irrigation.

The development plan for the Kahuku Agriculture Park is complete; construction bid for 168 acres is being handled by DLNR and management of the Park will be the responsibility of DOA. Water will be available.

Big Island land is less expensive than Oahu's, and availability is not a problem due to the decline of the sugar industry. Farms in the Hilo area are unirrigated, and water stress can occur on rocky land, especially in times of drought.

On Maui and Kauai, both land and water are expensive. Land at Haiku costs about $35,000/acre. State leases are available in Hana. Land is available on Molokai. One Kauai grower pays about $300/acre/year for land lease.


The share of locally produced bananas in the Hawaii market increased from 43% in 1981 to 58% in 1984. It dropped back to 43 percent in 1985 because of a decline in Hawaii production and a more than offsetting increase in imports, reflecting increased overall consumption.

Wholesalers who import bananas must place their orders three weeks in advance. Wholesalers look at the supply of good quality local bananas and adjust their orders for imported bananas according to the local supply.

Banana production on the Big Island is expanding rapidly and far exceeds local requirements. Fruits are shipped to Maui and Oahu. Banana production on Kauai is also increasing.

Maui growers market through their own outlets. Maui imports bananas from the Big Island and Oahu. The Big Island supplies 50% of Maui's needs. The bananas that Oahu ships to Maui are imported bananas.

Lack of a consistent supply of quality fruit inhibits the development of a favorable impression of the local product. Quality control may occur centrally or through individual conformity to established standards.

Alternative marketing systems should be explored to overcome quality, volume, and pricing problems. The industry believes that the practice of identifying good quality local bananas with a sticker to help sell local bananas must be continued. It is not known whether promotion of local bananas would be needed to compete with imported bananas if local supply increases. Current indications are that local marketers and consumers would choose local bananas if a consistent supply of high quality fruit were provided.

Promotion is difficult to justify when supply is a long way from meeting demand. Commencement of advertising must precede the achievement of excess supply over demand.

A study of characteristics of consumer demand for bananas in Honolulu was published as HITAHR Research Series 031 in July 1984. The study indicated that bananas are the third most frequently bought fruit in the Honolulu market, exceeded only by apples and oranges. The majority of respondents bought imported bananas because of superior external appearance and assured availability. It was concluded from the results of the study that Hawaii producers could regain most of the Hawaii market through correcting the deficiencies of inferior external appearance and irregular supply. Based on Honolulu unloads, per capita purchases of bananas amounted to only 13 lbs. as compared to 23 lbs. on the U.S. mainland. However, when the proportion of respondents who raised their own bananas or obtained them through non-commercial sources is considered, Honolulu per capita consumption was estimated at 20 lbs.

There appears to be a demand for cooking bananas (plantains) in Hawaii. However, it is not known which of the cultivars should be grown for this market sector. The potential size of this market should be studied. Most of the culitvars are susceptible to Panama wilt fungus and should be grown only in clean and isolated areas.

Pursuant to USDA (PP&Q) regulations, green bananas are allowed into the United States from Central and South America because it has been determined that green bananas are not host of fruit flies which exist in these countries. Accordingly, the Hawaii Department of Agriculture allows these fruits to be transshipped to this state for distribution and sale for the same reason. Therefore, since it has been determined that green bananas are not host of fruit flies, there is no logical reason why green Hawaiian bananas cannot enter mainland states for marketing.

To further illustrate this discrepancy, Japan, a country which maintains very strict quarantine regulations, has since July 1981, allowed green bananas from Hawaii into its country for personal consumption and commercial sales since it was determined by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries that green bananas are not host of fruit flies which exist in Hawaii.


A study by R.A. Lower (M.S. thesis, 1982. "Yield of Williams Hybrid Bananas in Relation to Fertility, Plant Size, and Climate") found the following:

  1. Depressions in total yield were due to production of smaller bunches resulting most likely from increased density, soil compaction, and diseases.

  2. Bunch weight and components of yield were related to climate up to 8 months prior to harvest.

  3. Bunch weight was closely related to the size of the pseudostem at bunch emergence and to the size of the leaves sampled at harvest. Modifications were due to N and K fertilization status, climate, and crop age. Reductions in bunch weight relative to pseudostem size were due to reduced leaf area caused by poor nutrition, high density and diseases.

A dense stand of banana is necessary for high production. An experimental planting at Waimanalo produced as much as 2,800 bunches per ha per year. However, a dense stand of bananas cannot be maintained unless N is applied frequently and liberally. In a 7-year experiment, the highest treatment yielded an average of 100,000 kg/ha/yr (more than 80,000 lb/acre). Production declined in older orchards because of limits of "root room". Optimum levels of P and K become more difficult to maintain in older plants.

The plants (above ground portions only) of a stand capable of producing 80-pound bunches contain approximately 290 pounds of N and 770 pounds of K per acre. Additional nutrients are tied up in plant residues and underground parts. Assuming 50% efficiency of the fertilizer N, the fertilizer requirement for building up the living crop is at least 580 pounds of N per acre. The requirement for sustained production cannot be less than the quantity sustained production cannot be less than the quantity of the nutrient removed. This is 2.6 lbs. N and 7.2 lbs. K per ton of banana produce. In practice, the fertilizer requirements are greater than this; in the case of nitrogen, because of losses by leaching, volatilization, immoblization, and denitrification; in the case of potassium because fertilizer applied on the surface of the soil is not readily used by the banana.

The following critical nutrient levels should serve as a useful guideline for bananas (tissue sampling is done on the third most recently unfurled leaf at flowering):

          N :     2.8 - 3.0%
          P :     0.18 - 0.2%
          K :     3.2 - 3.5%
          Mg:     0.3 - 0.6%
          Ca : 	  0.6 - 1.0%
          S :     0.22 - 0.25%

Bananas are generally tolerant of low soil pH. Since liming can result in releasing or fixing other nutrients, soils should not be limed to pH greater than 6.0-6.5. Micronutrient effects are generally unreported although problems are suspected.

At the present time, not many farms use tissue analyses or soil tests to guide rational fertilizer programs. Both should be used in concert and the research work necessary to calibrate soil and plant analyses against yields should be expanded. An experiment is currently underway in Waimanalo studying the effects of pruning, root crowding, and control of fungus and nematodes.

Other banana growing areas of the world, which use good management, have planting cycles of three to five years consisting of a plant crop plus two or three ratoons. Plantings in the Canary Islands last for a long time under a high level of management. Orchards in the Windward Islands rotate in 3-year cycles. In Cuba, a 3-year banana crop is rotated with a 2-year potato crop to control nematode. Central American plantations of 'Valery' have been in production for more than 20 years and yield 27 tons/acre of No. 1's. However, they also use chemicals which are not registered for use in Hawaii.

It is reported that urea-phosphate fertilizers lose less nitrogen by volatilization than urea used alone or urea mixed with phosphate. About 40% of N is lost when urea is used alone. This point needs to be investigated with bananas because a substantial decline in the phosphorus content of bananas has been observed at Waimanalo.


The poor quality (appearance) of local bananas, compared to imported bananas, has been a long standing concern of the industry. Poor pre-harvest practices on the farm and poor post-harvest handling methods at the farm and beyond the farm contribute to poor quality bananas reaching the markets. Poor planning and coordination between banana farmers and banana middlemen also contribute to poor quality bananas reaching the markets.

For bananas, all stages from planting to retail sale require meticulous planning and coordination upon a time schedule far more precise than pertains to any other commodity of world trade. Good and accurate grading; proper delivery, trimming and packaging; and predictions of supply are being done by only 25% of the local farmers. Periods of drought can reduce the quality further: bananas arrive at the wholesalers with a light green or yellowish color (probably due to high temperatures and low relative humidity).

On Hawaii and Kauai, adequate private handling and processing facilities are able to produce good quality bananas.

On Maui, interest in building a handling and processing facility for bananas needs to be renewed.

On Oahu, several wholesalers have adequate facilities for handling and processing bananas. Only 25% of the growers on Oahu market their bananas through middlemen with adequate facilities (because of higher prices and cash sales).

Adequate nutrients and water need to be applied for proper fruit development and high yields. Good quality bananas usually can be obtained if large bunches are produced.

Insects (thrips, mites, etc.) which cause unsightly blemishes on the fruit surface and diseases (such as cigar disease) which cause fruit decay and premature ripening must be controlled in the field.

Green bananas can be easily bruised. The bruises develop into ugly dark scars in which chlorophyll breakdown is hindered. Therefore, extreme caution must be exercised in harvesting and hauling bananas to the processing shed. Farmers should minimize bruising fruits by taking actions such as sleeving the bunches, preventing bunches from dropping to the ground during harvesting, hauling bunches in trucks with padded beds, and avoiding excessive stacking of bunches. Some farmers field pack their bananas in cartons.

In the packing shed, the procedure for dehanding the bunch, washing the hands to remove grime and latex, and treating the hands with fungicide to control crown rot should be done with caution to minimize bruising. Fungicides in the wash water can be neutralized by the chlorox and rendered ineffective. They can be sprayed on in a separate step with or without wax. Test is underway to determine the efficacy of sodium benzoate.

For storage of bananas (both green and ripe), not less than 58oF is recommended. Lower temperatures will cause chilling injury (surface scalding).

Poor quality of local bananas also may result from a lack of the necessary equipment to handle and pre-condition bananas at some wholesale outlets.

Ethylene gas will uniform ripen all the fingers of a hand and the precise amount of banana required by the markets. The use of Ethrel dips (solution) is not registered for bananas. If registered, growers can ripen their own fruits (especially those who presently supply directly to the retailers or consumers). However, for optimum effectiveness, humidity and temperature still need to be controlled during storage and ripening.

(The Department of Agriculture reviews SLN requests submitted by chemical manufacturers or industry. Residue, phytotoxicity, and efficacy data to support the SLN are either generated by the manufacturer, CTAHR, or industry.

Before a pesticide or chemical can be registered for use on a food crop, a tolerance (legal amount of pesticide residue which may remain on the crop) must be established on that particular crop. Residue data must demonstrate that the proposed use pattern will result in residue levels well within the established tolerance.)

Improved fruit quality of local bananas will hasten the substitution of local bananas over imported bananas as local production increases.

Appearance is perceived as the overwhelming factor in quality; repeat buying is influenced by taste.

A quality banana is spot- and crack-free, has good and uniform shape and color, and is mature and ripe.

In summary, quality control must extend all the way from the pre-harvest period to harvesting to post-harvest handling. Poor quality obtained under field conditions cannot be rectified by any post-harvest technique; that is to say, we must have quality fruit first. However, good quality fruit can be ruined by poor post-harvest handling. Damage can also occur at the distributor and retail levels. In general, the above applies to all varieties of bananas.

If bananas are to be processed, they can be either surplus fruits or those which do not meet fresh fruit standards. However, the pulp must be free from defects (i.e., no decay, breakdown, or disease). Rough handling can cause internal bruising. Bananas destined for processing would also require proper careful handling.


Preliminary findings on costs and returns of 10-acre banana farms for the Puna-Hilo area (lava soils) without irrigation and other islands (clay loam soils) with irrigation was presented at the 18th Annual HBIA Conference. For the Puna-Hilo area, the study showed residual net returns to risk of $1000 per acre after all costs and net returns of $3455 per acre with no out-of-pocket costs for labor, management and land. The findings were based on a producer price of 27 cents per pound and an average yield of 33,063 pounds per acre for a 7-year stand under good management. Returns were slightly lower for irrigated areas, amounting to a per acre net return of $919 to risk and $3,298 with no out-of-pocket costs for labor, management and land. These budget analyses provide an internal rate of return (IRR) of 30.2% for the Puna-Hilo model and 28.4% for the irrigated model.

Expansion of the above study to reflect different farm size models and input-output values is in progress.

Theft of fruits can be a serious and chronic problem (about 3% loss) in some locations. Growers are not compensated for the lost fruits or the time lost in attending court hearings arising from theft charges.


Bananas are generally tolerant of low soil pH. Since liming can result in releasing or fixing other nutrients, soils should not be limed to pH greater than 6.0-6.5. Micronutrient effects are generally unreported although problems are suspected.


Most growers do their own trucking.

Oahu receives bananas from both the Big Island and Kauai. Maui imports bananas from the Big Island.

Most inter-island shipments of bananas are done by barge. Growers need a minimum of two shipping days a week to move their produce to market. For the Big Island growers, Tuesdays and Thursdays (with a Saturday option to make up for holidays) appear ideal.

Wholesalers sometimes receive bananas damaged by overheating during transportation. Some growers are experimenting with the use of refrigerated containers for summer shipments.

The total surface transportation cost for Big Island growers to send their product to Honolulu markets (farm to store) is about 2 cents/lb. Air freight from Hilo to Honolulu is 8 cents/lb. for 10,000 lbs.; from Kauai, it costs 4 cents/lb.

For those who are contemplating shipping to the mainland, the cost is about 11 cents/lb.


On Oahu, the Waimanalo Agriculture Park is the big hope for additional land. It is expected that farmers in the Agriculture Park will realize yields of 35,000 lbs. per acre (with Cavendish cultivars). However, Phase I of the Park, comprising 125 acres, is not exclusively for bananas but includes other crops. All 14 lots have been leased out, and Phase II has started. Rental of privately owned farm land ranges from $100 to $200 per acre per month. Oahu sites require supplemental irrigation.

The development plan for the Kahuku Agriculture Park is complete; construction bid for 168 acres is being handled by DLNR and management of the Park will be the responsibility of DOA. Water will be available. Some growers are not not watering enough because of the high cost of water. In Waimanalo, ditch water costs 9 cents/1,000 gallons, plus a service fee of $2.50/acre. (This rate will rise to 16 cents/1,000 gallons in 4 years.) Electricity used to run the pumps cost twice the amount for water.

The ditch water supply for Waimanalo is unreliable. It often breaks down because of poor maintenance and disrepair. Water supply is often curtailed during periods of drought, when the need is most critical for farmers.

Big Island land is less expensive than Oahu's, and availability is not a problem due to the decline of the sugar industry. Farms in the Hilo area are unirrigated, and water stress can occur on rocky land, especially in times of drought.

In a "normal" year, Keaau has 80-120 in. rainfall. Drilling for water can be expensive, costing $300 per foot (for a 6-8 in. hole). Well water may have a high salt content. Irrigation is required 2-3 months per year.

On Maui and Kauai, both land and water are expensive. Water at Haiku costs $1.49/1000 gallons. On Kauai, growers pay 91 cents/1,000 gallons and the agricultural rate is 49 cents/1,000 gallons for over 25,000 gallons. (The agricultural rate will increase in the future to 84 cents/1,000 gallons.)

The Federal Pure Water Act puts a limit on allowable bacteria count in water. Water destined for agricultural use should not be made to comply with the limits.


Paraquat, diuron (Karmex), ametryne (Evic), glyphosate (Roundup), and dalapon (Dowpon or Basfapon) are used to control weeds in banana orchards:

Paraquat plus a surfactant should be applied as directed spray to emerged weeds. Banana leaves, fruits, and stems should not be sprayed.

Diuron should be applied only after plants are established. It should be used as basal spray either as a pre-emergence treatment (no surfactant) or as a post-emergence spray on emerged weeds (with surfacant).

Ametryne should be applied as a directed spray after orchards are established (planted). Treatment with ametryne should be repeated every 3 to 4 months if necessary.

Glyphosate should be applied as directed sprays or by selective application equipment. Fruits, leaves, and young banana plants should not be contacted by spray, mist or drift. (Roundup is registered, but labels have not been printed at this time.)

Dalapon should be applied to the grass before the heading stage. Fruits, leaves, and young banana plants should not be sprayed.

The herbicides that are mentioned above do not adequately control certain perennial broad-leaved weeds. More effective herbicides need to be registered for use in banana orchards.

Since bananas are surface feeders, heavy weed infestations rob them of nutrients.

Oxyfluorfen and Oryzalin

Federally funded research has established that both oxyfluorfen (Goal) and oryzalin (Surflan) use in bananas did not injure bananas while providing control at certain weed species now being poorly controlled by the currently registered herbicides. While performance date and residue analysis were completed, Elanco will no longer support oryzalin registration in minor crops. In order to register oxyfluorfen for use in Hawaii, residue samples must be collected, residue analysis conducted and collected, and a petition for oxyfluorfen use in bananas submitted to IR-4. Oxyfluorfen is registered for bananas in Puerto Rico.

Hawaii Pesticide Information Retrieval System, CTAHR