Punjab researchers wrote the banana off, this farmer didnít

Traditionally meant for hot and humid areas, bananas haven't been given much of a chance in Punjab. Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) began researching the crop in 2007 and still maintains bananas cannot be a successful commercial bet.

A Ludhiana farmer has, meanwhile, been defying the supposed odds and shown how it is done. Mewa Singh Kular of Kular village, Ludhiana, has been managing a three-acre banana farm since 2007 and harvested the fruit from plants grown in a poly net this year.

His work has intrigued Punjab Agricultural University and the state agriculture department, which has sent officials to visit his farm and inspect what they thought wasn't possible.

"Inputs from the PAU research were very discouraging when I started growing bananas in 2007," says Kular, who has since formed a Punjab Banana Growers' Association with around 30 members. "But I put in a lot of time and did various experiments to save my bananas from the biting frost of Punjab, which is the fruit's major enemy."

Kular began by covering the crop with stabiliser sheets and finally found that the fruit harvested from poly net-covered plants not only tasted sweeter, but also ripened naturally on the trees without needing a ripening chamber.

"I planted around 10 plants in a poly net in September 2012 just for the sake of an experiment," he says. "They started flowering in November and had fruits in December, which is the right harvesting period."

Among his experiments was farming baby corn alongside the bananas. "This too was a success. It is still on in the open farm; poly net-protected farming has helped."

Apart from taste and easy ripening, production too was good. "The crop grown under the poly net gave a yield 1.5 to 2 times higher than crops grown outside. Now the average yield from my farm is 150 quintals per acre."

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