Marist Comprehensive Academy, Uturu

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MIRACLE PLANTATION IS BORN!

 

The reading community should kindly oblige me for sounding personal at several points in this write-up.


When in September, 2016, I was transferred to the Marist Comprehensive Academy, Uturu from MCC Ezzagu, the first place I requested to see was the school farm. I was informed that there ‘once’ was a very flourishing farm where huge outputs were generated over the past years. These outputs according to what I gathered were halted one early morning as a result of bulldozer ‘attack’. A number of persons confirmed this claim.

                To me, that assertion was not acceptable because a great College like MCA should own a functional flourishing, integrated farm. I mustered courage and went to meet the Principal, Rev. Br. Moses Fegher (fms) in his office one good day. He heartedly received me and I humbly requested to know where the MCA School’s farm was situated. My first interaction with him was inspiring. He was so sincere and simple that I marveled at such qualities of his. He took time to quietly explain to me what happened to the farm.

At the morning assembly, the following day, he introduced me and openly challenged the Agric Science department to embrace the new parcel of land he will release for farming. Later, I had series of interaction with him in his office for reasons of deciding what to kick off with. Suddenly our hearts met at establishing of a plantain—banana plantation-then came the miracle plantation.

 

Why Miracle Plantation?

                Different persons see things differently based on how ‘large/small’ their eyes are. Everyone is again entitled to his/her belief or view in life. I cannot fully express all the miraculous aspects of this project because some of them need not be written down but rather watched or seen and God Almighty will be praised.

When the farm kicked off in 2016, it faced the challenge of no rainfall, but to my utmost surprise, the plantains/bananas still survived. Today heaven has vindicated and exalted my effort. The plantation is a success—a MIRACLE. It is even more miraculous when we observe that plantain grown in late October has begun fruiting. Rev. Brother Moses, my principal personally worked severally in the plantation. He carried suckers, tilled the soil, cut grasses, did weeding with us, applied manure and also released the needed fund without hesitation.

 

Botany of Plantain/Banana

Plantain and banana belong to the genus Musa. This taxonomic family includes several varieties which appear in different colors, height and sizes. The two most popular known varieties are:

  1. Musa Sapientum (ii) Musa paradisiace.

Musa Sapientum is plantain while Musa paradisiace is banana. Banana contains a lot of sugar when ripe while plantain contain a lot of carbohydrate which makes it necessary for it to be boiled or fried before it can be eaten unlike banana which is eaten raw.

Musa spp belongs to biennials when classification is based on life span. Many people regard those crops as trees, that is not so, rather they are large herbaceous perennial plants whose true stem is below the soil while the pseudo stem which appears above the soil is only the false stem. The underground stem is usually large functioning as rhizome. Herbaceous plants are seed plants that do not possess wood stem but rather produce completely new false stem after sometime.

                The leaves of Musa spp are usually large hanging down after full development. Both male and flowers are produced which develop into fruits. These fruits are carried in clusters called ‘head’ or bunch. On each ‘head’ are held ‘fingers’ of either of banana or plantain made of different sizes.

                They grow well on deep well-drained sandy loamy soil rich in humus. Average annual rainfall of 1800mm and a temperature range of 25-300 are required. Musa spp is propagated through the use of suckers are planting materials which arise from the underground stem called rhizome. Some of the known types of suckers which are used on the farm included:

  1. Surd suckers
  2. Peeper suckers
  3. Maiden suckers
  4. Water suckers
  5. Bit suckers

We adopted a planting distance of 4.5m. This distance was adopted for me to be able to allow for the planting of annuals and biennials. We have experimented in this line with Ananas Comosus. The area planted up with Ananas is however, small. We hope to add up some other crops like Carica papaya.

                Musa begins fruiting between 11-15 months but ours has begun fruiting already. Thus beating up time. The fruit is usually greenish but becomes yellow when ripe. Harvesting however, is done when the fruit has changed into dark green and some yellowing spotted on any of the fingers especially for musa paradisiacal

Agronomy

The greatest problem we encountered and continue to experience is the incidence of weed which grows at such an alarming speed. The principal was always handy to release the wonderful students of MCA to cut the weeds. The only unfortunate thing is that any time students worked on the farm, be sure to have at least four stands killed or severed. The use of herbicide maybe necessary with time and I have suggested that to the school. It may also be necessary to apply muriate potash fertilizer to boost size and production.

 

Production/Yield

Everyone is happy, the principal, I, the beautiful people of MCA community, the provincial Superior, external examiners, Rev Bro Daniel and the heavenly workers who watered the crops secretly at the most critical time. We are happy because the biennial crop we planted in the heart of dryness has skipped time and begun fruiting in less than nine months. One stand is observed to have kicked off the fruiting, more will likely follow within the next few weeks.

                Not just beginning to fruit, large number of the stands have pushed up large quantities of surd suckers. Many people have approached me to sell suckers to them; any sales from that farm will only be possible at the decision of the school. Moreover, the suckers cannot be tampered with now until we have begun harvesting the ‘heads’.

                At this stage of production, synchronization of yield is not tenable because of differentiation in height, date of planting and variation in performance. I do however, know that in the second or the third season’s synchronization would have been attained. When this happens, we shall be expecting fruiting of close to 80-90% of stands. If two hundred stands and above fruit at the same time, then we will hit our chest and exclaim, ‘thank you God Almighty’. Above three hundred ‘heads’ can be gotten from the plantation when two hundred stands fruit simultaneously because of the varieties which can likely produce twin bunches. Hopefully, at the third or fourth season, we anticipate maximum synchronization when all the stands will likely be growing and fruiting at the same time and pace.

Plantain contains the following nutrients vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrate and digestible starch. One cup of sliced plantain weighing about 148gm contains the following nutrients: protein 1gm, calorie 1gm, carbohydrate 17g, fibre 4g, vit A 83mg potassium 739mg, vit b6 0.44mg, magnesium 56mg, antioxidant also. Plantain is generally low in protein and fat. (USDA report). Unripe plantain is however believed to contain iron on the other hand banana contains fibre, vit K, vitB6 vitamin C, various antioxidants and phytonutrients when ripe. When unripe, it contains high quantity of carbohydrate but gradually changes to sugar when ripe.

                Medium – sized banana contains the following nutrients, 89gm calories; water 75, protein 11g, sugar 22.8g, fibre 2.6g, fat 0.39, omega 3 0.03g, omega 6 0.005g vitamins. A diet rich in banana and plantain can help to lower blood pressure because of their potassium and magnesium content. Potassium is believed to have positive effects on the cardiovascular health of an individual. It is believed that a daily intake of 1.3.1 4gm of potassium (which is richly present in both plantain and banana) will likely lower the risk of heart disease.

                Banana helps to clean the colon because of its content of dessert starch type of fibre. Unfortunately diabetics may not need to ingest large quantities of banana because of its much sugar content though it is suspected that its low glycerin index may be of help to them.

 

Calling Entrepreneurs

If have large expanse of land, you are advised to undertake this farm enterprise. Returns from the investment is huge and continuous. While the investor waits for fruiting, he/she can raise some sizable income given annuals and ephemerals like Teltana occidealis, zea mays, cucumis salivas Arachis hypogeal etc.

Cheers and God bless!

From: Anuna, Charles Chinedu

SS3 Agric Sc. Teacher

MCA                      

08036684694

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Marist Comprehensive Academy, Uturu.
Abia State, Nigeria
Postal: PMB 1920 Achara, Uturu, Abia State
Phone: 09097179543, 07060635680, 08037661554, 08084323665
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