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Water woes: Experts breed new varieties to aid banana yield

Other than the drought-tolerant banana varieties, NRCB official also recommends ‘Poovan’ variety of banana, which is considered moderately drought-tolerant and may also be a viable option for farmers

Water woes: Experts breed new varieties to aid banana yield

Kaveri Saba and Kaveri Kalki variety

TIRUCHY: With no sight of water flowing from Karnataka, the farmers across the State who grow paddy have been struggling for their regular cultivation. On the other hand, banana growers who are mostly dependent on water as the crops are considered to be one of the most water-soluble crops are also sitting with their fingers crossed. However, the researchers from ICAR- National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) have recommended that banana cultivators go ahead with the drought-tolerant varieties of banana that they have developed.

Banana is considered to be the most essential among the people as they can be used as desserts as well as for culinary purpose. Banana crops typically have a growth period of approximately one year before yielding fruit. This extended growth cycle leaves them susceptible to soil moisture deficit stress, especially in regions with limited water resources. Hence the experts have asked the farmers, who take up banana cultivation to choose drought-tolerant banana varieties for cultivation to mitigate the potential risks associated with water scarcity which has been faced in the Cauvery Delta region.

“We recommend drought-tolerant banana varieties that are developed by the NRCB, the Kaveri Saba, Kaveri Kalki and Karpuravalli varieties have emerged as standout options for farmers. These varieties have demonstrated a robust ability to withstand water limitations, making them suitable choices for regions facing acute water scarcity challenges,” said Dr R Selvarajan, Director of NRCB. Selvarajan also recommended the Poovan variety which is considered moderately drought-tolerant and may also be a viable option for farmers looking to strike a balance between yield and water efficiency.

“The Kaveri Saba, Kaveri kalki, Karpuravalli, and Poovan banana varieties are excellent choices for regions facing water limitations and scarcity, as they can thrive with reduced water input,” said Selvarajan.

The NRCB Director assured that these drought-tolerant banana varieties have not only shown resilience to water stress but also maintained their fruit quality and yield. He appealed to the farmers to consult with the extension services of ICAR-NRCB in Tiruchy to access these recommended varieties and receive guidance on their cultivation.


DESSERTS: Robusta, Dwarf Cavendish, Grand Naine, Rasthali, Vayal vazhai, Poovan, Nendran, Red Banana, Karpooravalli, Co 1, Matti, Sannachenkadali, Udayam, and Neypoovan are popular varieties in banana. Cavendish groups are generally preferred in the export market

CULINARY: Monthan, Vayal Vazhai, Ash Monthan, and Chakkia are cultivated for culinary purposes. Nendran is a dual-purpose variety used for dessert and culinar

HILLY TERRAINS: The popular varieties of bananas suitable for hilly areas are Virupakshi, Sirumalai and Namarai. Red Banana, Manoranjitham (Santhana vazhai), and Ladan too grow on hills


1. Planting bananas in pits of size(1.5’ x 1.5’ x 1.5’)

2. Mulching around the plants to help retain moisture

3. Drip irrigation to deliver water directly to the roots of the plants

4. Applying organic matter to the soil to improve its water-holding capacity


GROWING DISTRICTS: Coimbatore, Erode, Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli, Tiruchy, Vellore, Kanniyakumari and Karur

MAJOR MARKETS: Tiruchy, Coimbatore and Theni

PREFERRED VARIETIES AND HYBRIDS:Grand Naine, Dwarf Cavendish, Robusta, Rasthali, Poovan, Nendran, Red Banana, Ney Poovan, Pachanadan, Monthan, Karpuravalli

GRADE SPECIFICATIONS: The hands are graded based on the number and size of fingers in each hand. Overripe and injured fruits are discarded. Banana is sent to the local market as bunches

Hybrid variants to woo consumers

The NRCB has been readying to release a special variety of Kavery Kanchan banana that has vitamin content on par with the Nendran variety but is purely a dessert option which would increase consumption for its blend of the Grand Naine taste and Nendran flavour.

“Despite vast cultivation of Nendran in Tamil Nadu, this banana variety has been consumed widely in Kerala and the districts close to Kerala for its typical structure and taste. The people from Tamil Nadu are interested in consuming dessert varieties of banana and so we have developed the special variety of Kavery Kanchan,” said the NRCB Director R Selvarajan. The Director said, unlike the Nendran variety, the Kaveri Kanchan has dual usage as it is suitable for the preparation of chips as well as juice and flour for baby foods and health mix. He further said that Vitamin A deficiency is a major problem in India. It causes high mortality in pregnant and lactating women and childhood blindness. Insufficient dietary intake of Vitamin A is one of the primary causes of this problem. Plants are the primary dietary sources of pro-vitamin A (PVA).

PVA is a bioactive compound that gives vivid yellow, orange and red colour to fruits and vegetables. Consumption of provitamin A-rich food is a cost-effective strategy to tackle the problem of vitamin A deficiency prevalent in India.

Stating that the NCR 17 (Nendran-based hybrid) is a stable and high-yielding hybrid with a Pro-vitamin A (PVA) content on par with Nendran, Selvarajan assured that this variety produces bunches of 22 kg weight with 7–8 hands, 12–14 fruits per hand and 80–90 fruits per bunch. It gives a 20 per cent higher yield than the regular Nendran, he said. The PVA content in Kavery Kanchan has 100g of fresh pulp, which is higher than that of ruling commercial cultivars like red banana (10-fold), Grand Naine (30-fold) and Rasthali (40-fold). Thus, NCR 17 offers a cheaper and acceptable choice for the alleviation of Vitamin A deficiency.

Kaveri Kanchan, a new variant of Nendran to be released soon

Positives of Kanchan

1. It is a stable-yielding dessert banana with higher PVA content (10-40-fold higher) than popular dessert banana cultivars like Red Banana, Grand Naine and Rasthali

2. Twenty per cent higher yield than cv.Nendra

3. Sweet taste (a blend of the Grand Naine taste and Nendran flavour) with higher consumer acceptability

4. Suitable for preparation of chips, juice and flour (baby foods, health mix etc.)

AI system to save water, help produce more

TIRUCHY: In order to cope up with manpower shortage and precise water and fertiliser usage to prevent wastage, NRCB has also developed a sensor based Artificial Intelligence (AI) supported precision irrigation system which would save at least 30 per cent of water and provide 20 per cent more yield.

Accordingly, an automatic fertigation control system would be installed with connectivity and would be controlled remotely with which, the timing would be set up with the calculation based on the requirement by the plants.

“This precise calculation of water would certainly save at least 30 per cent of water. Here we set up the quantity of water and the micro nutrients actually required by the tree,” said the Director of NRCB R Selvarajan. In addition, the fertiliser would be distributed uniformly throughout the field. Achieving such uniformity of distribution requires efficient mixing, uniform water application, knowledge of the flow, characteristics of water and fertilisers in the distribution lines.

“This is just a one time investment and approximately, Rs 2 lakh can be spent for an acre. Since it needs less maintenance, the farmer gets benefitted,” Selvarajan said.

Sensor-based AI supported irrigation system at NRCB


1. It gives proper proportionate and timely fertigation to the crop

2. It helps save fertilizers upto 20%

3. It increasing the yield upto 10-15%

4. Easy installation, less maintenance stays in calibration longer

5.Works with any type of hydroponic system

6. Meets out man power shortage

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