promises a healthy and generous harvest
The plantain (Musa paradisiaca) is a member of the Musaceae botanical family, which is formed by the Musa and Ensete genus, consisting of four sections. Among the Eumusa, which is the crop of greatest economic importance as well as geographical scope given that it includes bananas and edible plantains. It is a herbaceous plant, with leaves on its upper part and roots on the lower part. The outer layer or peel is hard and glistens, while the edible flesh of the fruit is loaded with sugar and starch.
Plantain cultivars constitute a rich source of carbohydrates and thus constitute one of the best ways to nourish our body with vegetable energy. As with all bananas, they are highly recommended for the diet of athletes or children who require a food source that can satisfy their hunger quickly. The sugars contained are easily absorbable and assimilated by the body. Among the minerals it contains is potassium, which intervenes in the hydric balance of our total body cell count, and magnesium, which is essential for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles.
The most ancient references related to the cultivation of bananas come from India and date circa 500 B.C. The banana is native to southeast Asia, including northern India, Burma, Cambodia and southern China, as well as the islands of Sumatra, the Philippines and other Asian territories. Plantains were introduced in Africa, from where they later spread all throughout Africa, the Canary Islands after the year 1402 and reached America in 1516.
Cultivating plantain requires low and humid soils for good vegetation development, a temperature level between 21° and 30°C, minimum of 16°C and maximum 37°C. Higher temperatures result in slower development and damage the fruit. With temperatures below 10°C, growth is hampered. The plant withstands winds at a speed lesser than 20 Km/h, but stronger gusts can be harmful. The crop can grow in conditions of varying light. Within the lowlands, the most recommended soil composition for a good harvest is from sandy loam to clayish loam, which allow for greater root development. Light-textured or heavier soil can cause problems in managing the crop. Also, the soil must present a permeable profile, featuring a depth of at least 1.20 meters. For its commercial production, flatland terrains are preferred for purposes of irrigation, transportation and reduced soil erosion.
Among the known varieties of plantain, in the Dominican Republic, the most recognizable are in the triploid hybrid group of the Musa acuminata and Musa balbisiana, predominantly the first. This group is characterized for presenting vigorous plants. The group features the Musa AAB plantain subgroup, which is the only genus that produces export-quality fruit. These are eaten cooked, when green or fully ripened. This subgroup is divided into sections: French Plantain (female); Hom type Plantain (male) and Type Male x Female. From these classifications other varieties arise, and those popularly known in the country are: the Barahonero, the Enano Dominicano (Dominican Dwarf) and the Bolo.
Plantain planting and production in the Dominican Republic
Plantains are grown nationwide. They have relevance in the rural economic structure, given that it is an activity developed mainly by small and medium-scale producers. However, the country features three traditional zones for plantain production, geared to the domestic market as well as exportation. The three main production zones are: the northern region, formed by the provinces of La Vega, Hermanas Mirabal (formerly known as Salcedo), Duarte, Espaillat and Santiago. The second area is the southern region, integrated by Azua, San Juan, Barahona, Pedernales and Independencia. And finally the northwestern region, which encompasses the provinces of Valverde (Mao), Santiago Rodríguez and Montecristi.
The main varieties grown in the different regions of the Dominican Republic are classified under: FHIA 21-20, a hybrid known as Male x Female High Violet. This cultivar is produced mainly in the northern region of the country, which is the greatest production area. By contrast, in the northwestern zone, the FHIA 21 and FHIA 20 are grown, which are a hybrid known as Male x Female Violet. Finally, the Male x Female 3⁄4 and High Male are grown in the Southern region, which constitutes the lower production zone.
According to statistics provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, in 2011 some 4,697 hectares of plantain, yielding a total production of 1,881 million units, reflect a 56% production increase as compared to the 1,207 million units produced in 2002. The Central Bank reported that in 2012 the Dominican Republic exported 5,385 tons of plantain, valued at US$3.3 million.