By Tony Pattison, DAF South Johnstone
Organic matter plays an important role in maintaining the physical, chemical and biological health of soils, and is a key component in developing disease suppressive, productive banana soils. Retaining organic ground cover on the soil surface is one of the ways of increasing organic matter inputs, as well as protecting the soil surface from erosion – keeping the soil on the farm. Maintaining grass in the interrow is common for many north Queensland banana plantations, but is it possible to increase the amount of cover in banana plantations around the base of banana plants, effectively leaving no bare soil?
When it comes to using ground covers, banana farmers have a choice of using living ground covers by selecting low growing species, or using mulches like hay applied to the surface of the soil. Both methods can protect the soil surface from the impact of rainfall, reducing erosion from around the plant. The benefits of living ground cover or surface applied mulch are;
However, there are management implications that need to be considered when implementing ground covers around the base of banana plants. Some of the management implications that should be considered are listed below;
The choice of which method is most appropriate for your farm depends of the availability of water, with mulches more suited to dry environments – like the Tablelands – and living ground covers to wet environments like the wet tropical coast.
This project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the Hort Innovation banana research and development levy, co-investment from Queensland Government and contributions from the Australian Government. Hort Innovation is the grower-owned, not-for-profit research and development corporation for Australian horticulture.