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Online data on bagging bananas, as well as limiting bunch size

Online data on bagging bananas, as well as limiting bunch size

Various types of covering—dry banana leaves, canvas, drill cloth, sisal sacks, or burlap or so-called "Hessian' bags (made of jute), have been put over banana bunches intended for export, especially to enhance fruit development in winter and avoid blemishes. In 1955, Queensland led the trend toward adoption of tubular poly vinyl-chloride (PVC), then the cheaper blue polyethylene covers after trials produced record bunches. At first, the transparent covering caused sunburn on the first two hands and it was found necessary to protect these with newspaper before pulling on the plastic sleeve. The use of plastic covers became standard practice not only in Australia but in Africa, India and the American tropics. In 1963, Queensland growers were turning to covers made of High Wet Strength (formaldehyde-treated) kraft paper which was already in use for garbage bags. These bags were easily stapled at the top, prevented sunburn, resisted adverse weather, and were reusable for at least another season. Some growers still prefer the burlap. It is cautioned that the cover should not be put on until the bracts have lifted from the fruits (about 21 days after "shooting") so that the young fingers will be firm enough to resist the friction of the cover.

If bunches are composed of more than 7 hands, debudding, or "de-belling" that is, removal of the terminal male bud (which keeps on extending and growing) will result in somewhat fuller bananas, thus increasing bunch weight. The cut should be made several inches below the last hand so that the rotting tip of the severed stalk will not affect the fruits.

The following thread was started by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 15, 2004 at 3:06 pm PST

When can you harvest bananas and still have them mature and be edible. This question and answer was a surprise. Is it totally true?

1. Q. I've got bananas growing in my backyard and, I know that you're not going to believe it, they have produced little bananas! When do I harvest the fruit and how do I make them ripen?

A. Unlike most other fruits, the banana will develop a resemblance to normal flavor after being harvested at any time after they are as much as 2 to 3 inches long: separation from the plant causes initiation of all ripening processes. However, the greener the fruit is harvested the slower these processes will be. Few of the ripening changes proceed well in banana fruits left to ripen on the tree: starch remains high and sugar consequently lower than in fruit ripened off the tree. Bananas shipped to this country are harvested "three-fourths full". This means that three fourths of the bananas have filled out and do not have the predominant ribs on the sides of the fruit. (When a banana is green and immature it has several obvious ribs down the length of the fruit. As the banana matures the ribs become less obvious.) Bananas need exposure to a naturally occurring gas called ethylene in order to ripen properly. Homeowners can "gas" their own bananas by placing them in an airtight plastic bag with several apples, which naturally emit the gas. Banana fruit can be left on the tree until temperatures of 50-53 degrees F. or lower are expected. Temperatures of 50-53 degrees F. or lower may seriously reduce the quality of fruit that is ready or nearly ready for harvest, if such temperatures continue for many hours. An ideal banana region would have no temperatures below 60 degrees F. or above 95 degrees F. and a temperature above 75 degrees F. during a considerable part of the time.

The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 15, 2004 at 3:12 pm PST.

Found this data from Australia interesting. Damage to fruit, with temps below 55.4 F/ 14C, interesting

I was wonder thinking about this last year. When we pulled banana bunches in Nov before the first killer freeze. All of the bunches did not seem to ripen, or if they did, not very well; could of been due to temps in the high 30's and low 40's before we actually pulled them. Here is the article below.


Growing bananas in the home garden (south Queensland)
Roger Broadley, DPI's Agency for food and Fibre Sciences, Horticulture

The banana is a tropical plant and benefits from moderate heat, adequate moisture and protection from wind.

Bananas flourish best when they receive full sunlight for most of the day. A warm sheltered spot with a north to easterly aspect protected from cold westerly and southerly winds should be selected. The minimum temperature for growth is 14°C.

Frosts will kill the leaves and sometimes plants. Periods of cold weather with temperatures below 13°C will cause chilling injury to fruit. Fruit then develop a dull appearance. The leaves of plants affected by cold conditions (less than 10–12°C) can turn yellow, and bunch size is reduced.

Banana plants grow best in a well drained, deep soil, rich in plant foods and organic matter and with good moisture retaining qualities. Light sandy soils require considerable mulching to improve water retention, and nutrients are quickly leached from this type of soil.

Although bananas like ample water, they will not tolerate water-logging. Roots start to die after an hour in flooded soils.

Residential plantings are defined as those bananas not grown for commercial purposes ie. for sale. Residential growers may plant a maximum of 10 plants. Residential growers can grow one or more of several varieties, but only after obtaining an inspector’s written approval. The only permitted varieties are Ladyfinger, Blue Java, Goldfinger, Bluggoe (plantain or cooking banana), and Kluai Namwa Khom (Dwarf Ducasse) and Pisang Ceylan.

Permission to plant
An inspector’s approval to remove and plant bananas in residential areas can be obtained free of charge by making application to the nearest office of the Department of Primary Industries, especially the banana centres of Nambour (07 5444 9665) and Centre for Wet Tropics Agriculture (South Johnstone 07 4064 1130).

Restrictions on the movement and planting of banana plants are imposed to prevent the spread of serious banana diseases such as Banana Bunchy Top Virus, Black Sigatoka and Fusarium wilt (Panama Disease). These diseases are present already in some parts of the State, and legislation is in force to prevent their movement to ‘clean’ areas thereby protecting the commercial banana industry.

Planting material
Suckers or pieces of the corm (known as 'bits') are used to propagate bananas, but disease free tissue cultured plants are also available.

A sucker is an offshoot from the parent plant. The best suckers to use are those which are about 45 to 60 cm tall and have narrow "sword" leaves. Small suckers with spindly stems and broad, flattened leaves lack vigour and should not be used for planting.

A 'bit' is a piece of the rhizome or short underground stem of the plant that carries a mature bud or eye. To obtain bits for planting, select a well-grown healthy plant at least 6 months old that has not bunched. Remove the plant roots from the rhizome, split the rhizome and attached pseudostem (plant stem) in sections in such a way that each piece has a prominent centrally placed eye.

In southern Queensland, the best time to plant is from September to mid-December.

When planting, dig a hole about 300 mm square and 250 mm deep. Place some well composted poultry manure and loose soil in the hole, and then insert the planting piece so that the junction of the corm and pseudostem of the sucker or bit is about 15 cm below the soil level. On sloping sites, the eye should be placed on the uphill side. The hole should then be filled with soil and tramped down firmly.

Water should be applied sparingly after planting until the plants begin to grow. If too much water is applied during this period the planting piece may rot.

Plants are usually spaced 5 m apart.

A complete fertiliser with an analysis of approximately 10% nitrogen, 2% phosphorus and 22% potassium, that is, a 10:2:22 NPK mixture is quite suitable for use on most of the soils on which bananas can be grown. On sloping sites, apply the fertiliser to the up hill side only.

As soon as the sucker begins to grow, or the shoot from the bit appears above ground level, the first application of fertiliser at the rate of 200 grams per plant can be made.

Subsequent dressings of the same fertiliser, at twice the rate, are applied every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. A similar fertilising program should be followed in subsequent years over the period September to April.

A dressing of dolomite at 200 g per square metre applied every year is beneficial to the plants. This material should also be spread evenly over the soil.

After the first crop is harvested it is recommended that you apply a total of 800g of agricultural lime, 240g of urea, 30g of superphosphate and 600g of potassium sulphate per banana plant per year. For better results apply a quarter of the recommended application four times between the period of September and April. Alternatively apply organic fertilisers.

Banana plants benefit from mulching. This practice prevents growth of weeds and conserves soil moisture. A variety of materials may be used including well-rotted manure, straw or lawn clippings. However, the mulch should be kept at least 50 cm from the base of the plant. This practice should deter the banana weevil borer from attacking the plants and possibly reduce the incidence of fungal diseases.

As the parent plant grows, it will produce several suckers around its base. It is important to allow only one of these followers to remain but two suckers may be left on each parent if the planting is very vigorous. All other sucker growth arising from the parent plant, after the desired follower has been selected, should be removed as soon as possible after it appears.

The easiest way to permanently remove unwanted suckers is to cut them off at ground level with a sharp knife. A small hollow should then gouged in the centre of the cut surface with the point of the knife and a teaspoonful of kerosene should be poured into the cavity. This kills the sucker.

The follower should be selected when the parent is about three-quarters grown in the spring or early summer.

Bunch covering
A plastic bunch cover should be placed around the bunch of fruit when the last hand is visible. Most agribusinesses sell bunch covers. They come in different sizes, thicknesses and colours. Covers protect the bunch from damage by birds and help to increase the weight and improve the quality of the fruit.

It is extremely important that dead and diseased leaves are cut from the plant regularly. This practice will reduce the incidence of leaf diseases, lessen the fire risk, and help to keep the plants tidy; but care should be taken to remove only leaves which are diseased or completely dead.

A bunch is ready to cut when the fruit is fairly evenly rounded with no prominent ribs, and the dry remains of the flowers break off readily from the fruit tip in the fingers when rubbed. If the bunch is protected by an open plastic sleeve, it can be left on the plant until the fruit begin to ripen.

When harvesting, the stalk of the bunch should be cut well above the top hand of bananas.

Ripening bananas at home
Home grown bananas are often wasted because all the fingers on a bunch tend to ripen at the same time. Individual hands can be removed from a green bunch and ripened separately so that you can have ripe bananas over a period of time.

Leave the bunch to ripen in a cool well ventilated place. Leave the plastic bag cover on the bunch but open the bottom to provide a small amount of ventilation to the fruit. Best results are obtained when temperatures can be maintained at about 20°C.

If temperatures are above 26°C the fruit will soften and the pulp ripe while the skin is still a pale green. This is the "green ripe" condition. Fruit ripened when day temperatures are around 25 – 28°C, and night temperatures are 17 – 18°C are usually ready to eat in 2 – 5 days, depending on variety. Cooler temperatures will take a little longer.

Some points about banana fruit
Bananas can either ripen naturally through the production of natural ethylene within the fruit, or be ripened at the hard green stage by dipping fruit in an ethylene solution. Ethylene gas is used commercially to ripen fruit. Quality and the flavour of the fruit are not impaired when the bananas are harvested at the fully developed hard green stage and ripened off the plant.
Banana fruit in a green unripe condition produce heat and ethylene slowly until they enter the ripening phase when they produce large amounts of heat and ethylene. This phase accompanies and immediately precedes the change in skin colour from green to yellow.
Ripening bananas using other ripening fruit
Seal the bananas to be ripened (bunch, hand or fingers) in a plastic bag with a ripening fruit such as a red apple, or a ripening banana. A fully ripe fruit is not as effective as it is not producing as much ethylene as a ripening fruit and so would have to be left in the bag longer to obtain the same effect.
Place the bag containing the banana/s and the ripening piece of fruit in a cool dark place. A cupboard would do but not the refrigerator.
Leave for at least 24 hours. Forty eight hours or even longer may be required in winter.
Remove the ripening fruit which was placed in with the green bananas in step 1. This fruit should now be ripe and ready to eat.
When the bananas show the first signs of ripening remove them from their plastic bag and allow them to ripen normally.
Points about handling bananas
Do not store bananas below 13°C. Temperatures below 13°C will damage green or ripe bananas, therefore a domestic refrigerator is far too cold.
Bunches of green bananas stored at 13°C give off almost no heat or ethylene and can be stored for at least 2 weeks without ripening naturally.
Ripening bananas give off heat and ethylene. They should not be stored near green bananas as the ethylene produced can cause the green bananas to ripen.

Further information
Agrilink Tropical Banana Information Kit provides information on all aspects of growing and marketing tropical bananas in Queensland. It is available from the Agrilink office (phone 1800 677 640) or the DPIShop On-line.

DPI Call Centre on 13 25 23 – local call 8 am to 6 pm Monday to Friday (non-Queensland residents phone 07 3404 6999). E-mail:

Information contained in this publication is provided as general advice only. For application to specific circumstances, professional advice should be sought. The Department of Primary Industries Queensland has taken all reasonable steps to ensure the information in this publication is accurate at the time of publication. Readers should ensure that they make appropriate inquiries to determine whether new information is available on the particular subject matter.

File No: H0095 Replaces: H00095 & FN-SE96039
Last updated March 2000

The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 15, 2004 at 3:20 pm PST.

Bag Color?

What difference does the color of the bag make? I could see how clear would intensify the sun and possible burn the fruit. But is there a difference between using say white or blue?

The above followup was added by Mike on August 17, 2004 at 8:01 am PST.


Also, should the bottom of the bag be tied shut or left open?

The above followup was added by Mike on August 17, 2004 at 9:34 am PST.


Does anyone know of a source for banana bunch bags?

I noticed on some of my tall banana plants a few fruits are getting sun scorched.


The above followup was added by Jeff on August 17, 2004 at 10:42 am PST.

MIke, bagging bananas

I don't know for sure, I'm going to stick my neck out a bit and say what I think is going on.

I assume growers have tried different colored plastic bags and blue seems to be better. I know with my D.O. a couple seasons ago, it had no shade and it was turning yellow from it. So I took a brown paper grocery bag and cut it in half and stapled the top together and that got rid of the premature yellow; they went back to green.

From what I have read, and from what Ben has told me. You leave the bottom of the bag open when it is hot, so you don't cook them, and close it when cool or cold. Not quite sure of the exact temps they are referencing. Especially were you are at, where your bananas normally keep their leaves in the winter, this would greatly help to protect and mature in cool temps.

I do volunteer work at a dry pack cannery for our church and a couple of the boxed items, comes in a blue bag, I have been saving them them, when I can.

One is fairly large and one is small, more on the lone of a small bunch of 4 to 6 hands, the other could probably cover, or mostly cover your Ice Cream bunch. I have not used any of them yet. All of my bunches came out in late May and early June and we still have time left for maturity. Except I'm wondering about the Pace and Rajapuri, their development seems to be slow. Where as the small FHIA-3 Sweetheart seems to be many times faster. So I have thought about adding bags to the Pace and Rajapuri.

It appears from the data I copied above, banana bunch temps are critical for bunch development. And if it gets too cool, for too long, the ability of the bunch to ripen after picking is greatly affected and if too cold, it un-enables the fruits from being able to ripen at all.

I think that is what happened last year, when so many of us had bunches which never ripened. We left them on the trees as late as possible. But it appears temps in the 40's ands especially 30's, well above possible leaf damage, can shut down the ability for them to ripen.

Now it appears if they are not frozen and you have leaves left in spring, and they start growing again, and continue to further maturing, this is changed, and they can again ripen.


The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 17, 2004 at 10:54 am PST.

Mike, still warm now, maybe paper bag is better for now, your banana is really exposed to direct sun.

In banana plantations, their is often more shade. So not so sure under what condition plastic bags are used.

Seems not too much heat would build up, as long as the bottom is open.

This I guess is going to have to be discovered by us in our testing.


The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 17, 2004 at 10:59 am PST.


I pulled a clear bag over my ice cream bunch and tied it off at the bottom before I left for work.
I better get home and take that thing off asap!

The above followup was added by Mike on August 17, 2004 at 1:41 pm PST.

Yes, Mike you don't want banana pudding by the time you get home.

Think about it, look how hot it gets in a green house or in your closed up car.

Did you use a paper bag or plastic?


The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 17, 2004 at 2:51 pm PST.

Double whoops, I see you said clear plastic, that is double heat and double trouble. I hope you get it off quick.

I would not want to feel I was the one responsible for giving you the idea and then have them wasted because of it.


The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 17, 2004 at 2:53 pm PST.

Close One

Luckily someone else is home to bail me out.
Close one

The above followup was added by Mike on August 17, 2004 at 3:36 pm PST.

Fried bananas

Mike did they fry?


The above followup was added by Jeff on August 17, 2004 at 4:51 pm PST.


No damage whatsoever. Just lots of humidity.
Jeff, I was watching that video on the seaside banana garden last night and the blue bags he was using are plastic. I would think they would attract just as much heat as a clear bag. They were transparent. I couldn`t tell if they were tying them at the bottom or not. I was thinking this morning it would be too hot and lack air flow but then lost my mind a tied it off before I ran out the door - thinking what good is a bag that`s not closed?

Basically I just want to keep them looking as pretty as possible with no sun fading. I see burlap metioned in the above post from David, Maybe an old pillow case?

The above followup was added by Mike on August 17, 2004 at 8:06 pm PST.

Cheese cloth

Hey, Why not try cheese cloth? No added heat plenty of shade and air circulation...


The above followup was added by Jeff on August 17, 2004 at 8:31 pm PST.


Or we could just wrap a piece of shadecloth around them?
I think we are putting too much thought into this one lol.
Davids paper sack is probably all that`s needed.
You think there would be any downfall to having the fruit in total darkness?

The above followup was added by Mike on August 17, 2004 at 9:10 pm PST.

When I was in Taiwan, they had brown paper like, grocery bags

Except they were also treated with pesticides to help keep bugs off the bananas.

Mike, I think we are not looking at a lot of degree rise, we only want them warmer. Heat rises, so if the top is more or less closed, it is going to be a little warmer.

I know it must work, or other wise, they would not use it commercially. We are looking at cutting a couple weeks or maybe a few off of the time needed to mature a bunch. But that is all we need here, sometimes to beat the game.


The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 17, 2004 at 10:07 pm PST.

Banana bags

From what I can remember looking out the window of buses when travling past banana plantations in N.S.W the blue bags are just hanging open at the bottom, it would still get plenty more heat inside the bag than no bag at all

The above followup was added by Jason on August 17, 2004 at 10:13 pm PST.


The above followup was added by Jason on August 17, 2004 at 10:17 pm PST.

And Another

This one has a drawing of the bag

The above followup was added by Jason on August 17, 2004 at 10:20 pm PST.

Jason, Thanks for the input and links,


The above followup was added by David, Waterford CA, zone9 on August 18, 2004 at 11:02 am PST.

Smart and Final blue 30 gal. liners

are what I use to bag my fruit, no need for paper, burlap, cheesecloth, full grain cowhide or gore-tex.

Any light colored plastic bag will do, slit the bottom, put over the bunch, and tie a knot in one corner of the bag at the top.
I never tie of the bottom.

I was told by a standard fruit co. grower in Costa Rica that the reason they bag the fruit is to prevent cosmetic damage caused by the claws of little bats that roost in the fruit bunches.

I'm pretty sure that my bagged bunches ripen faster and fatten up more, especially during the winter, they definitely look better, no sunburn etc.


The above followup was added by Greg in Ventura on August 18, 2004 at 4:25 pm PST.


In NSW bags are used mainly for aesthetics, keep all the bird and fruit bat marks off, whihc would otherwise mean the fruit was unsaleable. Also of course the heat helps fill out the bunchs faster, and helps prevent stale fruit. The modern commercial bags are either not transparent or semi-transparent, and most have a reflective surface to reflect heat away in summer, inward in winter. Most of these bags are 3 layers thick. Bags are sealed at the base over winter, opened in summer. The bags have different colour markings on the outside for coding, you know which colour bag is likely to have ripe fruit at any givine time of year, saves having to check every bunch (saves time when you have 10,000 plants to look at!!).

The old style plastic bags are not used commercially any more, the new bags give much more reliable results.

The above followup was added by Ben on August 18, 2004 at 7:28 pm PST.

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