Beyond the fruit: Exploring innovative uses of banana by-products

A bunch of bananas. (Esperanza Doronila/Unsplash)

By James Tababa

The Philippines is a major banana producer. 

Along with exporting Cavendish bananas, the Philippines also grow different kinds of bananas like lakatan and saba. While Cavendish is grown mostly for export, lakatan is popular as a fresh fruit locally and saba bananas are often turned into banana chips and other products for both local consumption and export. 

Banana plants are known for their fruits. However, they have more to offer. Because they grow quickly and have lots of useful parts, they open up more beyond just making food.

Banana waste as organic fertilizer

Banana waste, a byproduct of banana farming and processing, has emerged as a valuable resource for creating organic and bio-fertilizers. Traditionally, banana waste has been left to decompose naturally in fields, replenishing soil nutrients. Banana waste can be transformed into a growth-stimulating soil conditioner through solid-state fermentation. This process not only reduces waste but also increases the nutrient content of the resulting material.

Solid-state fermentation is a bioprocess in which microorganisms are cultivated on solid substrates without the presence of a free-flowing liquid phase. Using solid-state fermentation to create organic fertilizer from banana waste is a sustainable approach to both waste management and agricultural nutrient supply. It helps recycle organic materials that might otherwise be discarded while producing a valuable resource for enhancing soil quality and promoting plant growth.

Livestock feed

Banana cultivation generates a substantial amount of by-products, including peels, stems, and leaves, which are often discarded as waste. However, these by-products are rich in nutrients that can be repurposed into high-quality animal feed.

Banana leaves and stems hold tremendous potential as livestock feed. The leaves, rich in essential nutrients, can be a valuable source of supplementary nutrition for animals. Farmers can harness this resource to enhance the health and growth of their livestock, thereby contributing to sustainable animal husbandry practices.

Banana peels are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Through proper processing techniques, such as drying, fermentation, and ensiling, can be transformed into a nutrient-rich feed source for livestock. The presence of compounds like pectin and cellulose also contributes to improved digestion in animals. Beyond macronutrients, banana peels also harbor essential minerals like potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, and manganese. This nutrient profile makes them a promising raw material for feed production.

Even banana roots or rhizomes have found utility in livestock treatment. They have been recognized for their potential to treat coccidiosis in rabbits. Coccidiosis is a parasitic disease that affects rabbits and is caused by protozoan organisms known as coccidia. These microscopic parasites can multiply rapidly within the rabbit’s intestines, leading to various health issues.

Natural fiber production

Banana fiber is extracted from the pseudostems of banana plants. In the Philippines, the abundant cultivation of bananas makes this a readily available resource. Unlike synthetic fibers, banana fiber is biodegradable and sustainable, aligning with the global push for eco-conscious materials.

Abaca, another natural fiber indigenous to the Philippines, is often blended with banana fibers. This blend offers a unique combination of qualities – the strength and durability of abaca and the softness and versatility of banana fiber.

Innovative advancements have been made in banana fiberboard research. Aside from creating high-density fiberboard out of banana plant materials, the utilization of banana by-products extends to paper production. Banana fibers, when combined with other pulps, have been found to enhance the quality of paper.

Despite these diverse applications and benefits, banana remains an underutilized crop in the Philippines. By harnessing the full potential of bananas, from their fibers and by-products to their waste, the country can make significant strides toward more sustainable and eco-friendly practices.

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