Bananas and Plantains
In a field of mature bananas, plants can be seen at all stages of vegetative growth and fruit maturity, providing a fascination for anyone who has an interest in growing crops. Banana farmers in the tropics can harvest fruit every day of the year. The absence of seasonality in production is an advantage, in that it provides a continuity of carbohydrate to meet dietary needs as well as a regular source of income, a feature that perhaps has been under-estimated by rural planners and agricultural strategists. The burgeoning interest in bananas in the last 20 years results from the belated realization that Musa is an under-exploited genus, notwithstanding the fact that one genetically narrow group, the Cavendish cultivars, supply a major export commodity second only to citrus in terms of the world fruit trade. International research interest in the diversity of fruit types has been slow to develop, presumably because bananas and plantains have hitherto been regarded as a reliable backyard source of dessert fruit or starch supplying the needs of the household, and in this situation relatively untroubled by pests, diseases or agronomic problems.