header-banner-bananaplantations.jpg
Earth first

Banana Plantations | 3 Sustainable Practices

Many banana plantations are known for their high water consumption and intensive use of chemical pesticides. But is there a way to produce one of our favourite yellow fruits more sustainably?

Believe it or not, the answer is yes! Here are 3 sustainable practices used by banana producers in the Canary Islands.

1. Biodiverse Soil

Why is biodiverse soil so important? As the Panama Disease is a soil-borne fungus that attacks the roots of the banana plant,1 the more biodiverse the soil is, the more difficult it is for soil diseases to spread. While Panama Disease (Tropical Race 4) is more serious in East Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, it’s well contained in the Canary Islands where the disease is less threatening as a subtropical race.2 So what do banana producers in the Canary Islands do differently? 

Instead of discarding banana plants after their fruit is harvested, Canary Island banana farmers use them to cover the ground of the plantation. The banana plants eventually dry out and break down into organic material that adds to the soil’s biodiversity. Other organic material is also used from around the island, like “pinocha”, or pine leaves.

Fun Fact: Bananas don’t grow on trees. Bananas are basically giant herbs, and its “trunk” is actually leaves tightly bunched together.

2. Drip Irrigation

As bananas consume a lot of water,3 smart irrigation is necessary to make sure water isn’t wasted. In the Canary Islands, banana farmers use a common sustainable water management practice called drip irrigation. It’s exactly as it sounds: water is dripped directly to the plant and its roots. This method of irrigation minimises wasteful water use, while ensuring the plant is given enough water to grow.

3. Biocontrol

Many banana plantations in Latin America use small planes to release chemical pesticides to ward off pests.4 This is often done because the plantation fields are vast, making this the most cost efficient method of pest removal. However, this poses serious health and environmental concerns, as humans and wildlife can be exposed to pesticides through these aerial applications. These chemical pesticides can contaminate land if they leach into the soil, and they can also run off into water streams. 

With tighter chemical legislation in Europe, Canary Island banana farmers are increasingly relying on biocontrol as a way to sustainably get rid of pests. Using the pests’ natural enemies (predators), banana farmers are able to keep pests out of their banana plants while minimising the use of chemical pesticides. Because banana farmers have smaller plantations (below or around 1ha of land), they’re also able to implement such pest management systems more easily. 

It’s important to note that the predators used in Canary Island plantations are native species, and will disappear once their food (the pests) are gone, as the pests are their only food source.

Below you will find a list of pests in Canary Island banana plantations and their natural enemies used as biocontrol:

What other sustainable practices on banana plantations have you heard of? Let us know in the comments below!

PestsPredators (Natural Enemies)Alternative Predators
Banana MealybugParasitic wasps (Acerophagus artelles)Ladybird larvas (Cryptolaemus monstrouzieri)
White FliesFungus (Lecanicillium muscarium)Fungus (Verticilium lecanii)
Red Spider MitesPhytoseid mites(Phytoseiulus persimilis), removes pestPredatory mite (Neoseiulus californicus), prevents pest
Banana WeevilNematode (Steinernema carpocapsae)Fungus (Beauveria bassiana)
AphidsParasitic Wasp (Aphidius colemani)Midge (Aphidoletes aphidimiza)
Banana MothNematode (Steinernema feltiae)
Caterpillar EggsParasitic Wasp (Trichogramma achaeae)
Caterpillar LarvaeNematode (Steinernema carpocapsae)
ThripsPredatory mites (Neoseiulus cucumeris)
Panama DiseaseFungus (Trichoderma harzianum T22)

Related articles

Most viewed

Earth First

Plastic-Free Food Packaging: Where Do We Stand?

Madhura Rao

As an avid advocate for keeping groceries as plastic-free as possible, I have always wondered about…

Earth First

Amino Acids | The Building Blocks of Protein

Lynn Liu

We tend to think that protein is a simple macronutrient that your body needs. However, if you ever…

Earth First

Plastic Alternatives: Start-Up Challenges

Claudia Parms

The European Parliament officially announced this year that single-use plastics will be banned as…

Human Stories

Tomatoes in Italy: The Social Cost of Production

Silvia Lazzaris

Tomatoes are a staple ingredient in many homes across Europe, but the story of how they reach your…

Earth First

How will a changing climate affect olive trees?

Inés Oort Alonso

One of the Mediterranean's oldest and most symbolic crops is threatened by the effects of climate…

Earth First

Grocery Shopping & Nutritional Trade-offs

Dr Chris Ryder

As adults, we probably all do at least some of the food shopping, whether for the household or just…

Earth First

How to Eat Edible Flowers

Virginie Maenhout

Do you also get hyped when discovering glossy flowers mixed into your fresh salad? Or do you feel…

Earth First

Sustainable Protein Powders | Whey vs Plant-Based Protein Supplements

Aran Shaunak

Whether for health reasons or in an effort to improve athletic performance, many people turn to…

Earth First

The Surprising Sources of Protein That Are Not Animal Products

Kelly Oakes

Just because you don’t eat meat, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on protein. In fact,…

Earth First

Eco-friendly Christmas Foods: 3 Sustainable Alternatives

Kelly Oakes

Whether you’re sitting down for a celebratory meal or looking for a gift to give to family and…

Earth First

Can a Policy Stop Companies From Greenwashing?

Inés Oort Alonso

In 2022 the EU planned to tackle empty ‘green claims’ with new legislation. Here’s how it aims…

Earth First

How Tofu is Made

Samanta Oon

Look into any modern day tofu factory, and you will see the shiny gleam of machinery that is needed…

Keep updated with the latest news about your food with our newsletter

Follow Us