We visited a couple of banana locations. The first was a banana germplasm preservation center where they were growing many varieties of bananas to save and use for possible future breeding. The standard Cavendish banana for export teeters on extermination because of devastating disease problems. They have not yet been able to develop another variety that has the same shipping and taste qualities of the Cavendish. The Ticos eat another variety that does not ship well, but one with a superior taste.
Amy explains some of the problems with banana culture here in the banana reserve.
The banana tree grows its stalk and produces fruit in about a year. Then the stalk is cut off and a new one sprouts. The old brown stem in this photo has rings like a tree, but they are not like tree rings, more like leaves on a garlic plant.
Here’s an example of a banana bunch with its deep red flower dangling below.
Now we are in a banana plantation of many hundreds of acres. The yellow strings are used to support the stalks. Migrant Nicaraguan workers walk through this maze and cut the ripe bunches and haul them through the maze to the banana monorail.
Here’s a young worker pulling a train of bananas down the monorail banana trail by hand. There is a trail that goes down the middle of the plantation about a kilometer and the workers put each bunch on a hook and pull them by hand down the monorail track.
Here the monorail crosses a road as the banana puller crosses the main road with bunches of bananas. Bananas are very prone to insects and a plant fungus, black sigatoka. To control insects and sigatoka, the bananas here are aerial sprayed every week of the year, in addition to the blue bags containing insecticide.
Here the bananas approach the packing shed.
The first rinse, while the bananas are still on the monorail. The bunches usually weigh between 120 and 160 pounds. I wouldn’t want to weave through the jungle of yellow strings to carry them to the monorail!
The bananas are put into a tank – this contains a light chlorine rinse if my memory is correct.
Next, workers cut the bunches into the bunches the size you see in the store. These ladies are very adept at using their knives.
Bananas floating to the packers after getting cut into retail bunches.
Packers put the bunches into trays before the bananas are sprayed with another fungicide to get ready for packing in boxes for shipment for export.
We’ve now moved onto the pineapple fields. This is a field of newly planted pineapples.
Pineapples require well-drained soil, so there are deep ditches for drainage every 50 feet for so. In the background you might be able to make out the earth-movers preparing the drainages for the next pineapples to be planted. The land is scraped, then backhoes dig the drainage channels, followed by bed shapers.
Here are more migrant workers harvesting pineapple. They walk through the field and put the fruits ready for harvest on the arm that comes out from the tractor/wagons.
This is not a job I’d like. The pineapple leaves are hard and stiff, the workers need to wear full body protection and work in very hot and humid conditions.
Here a worker catches an ride on the harvester boom to get across a drainage ditch.
The pineapples packed inside the wagons.
The exterior view of the wagons with the first layer of pineapples supported upside down so others can rest on top without damaging the crowns.
The wagons are brought to the plant for packing and picked up by a crane.
The wagons are dumped into a chlorine water bath and moved towards the packing plant.
Here a worker finds a ripe pineapple and uses the ubiquitous machete to cut it up into pieces for sampling.
This was the best fruit of the whole trip!
The plant is following the same composting regime as Alvero is on his organic farm and the plant has noticed better production on the areas where this compost is applied.