Here’s how drip irrigation turned this city into India’s ‘Banana Republic’

  • The Maharashtrian city of Jalgaon currently has a yield of 53 tonnes of bananas per acre according to a report in the Indian Express.
  • In comparison to global output, if Jalgaon was a country of its own, it would be the seventh largest producer of bananas.
  • What makes Jalgaon unique is that it manages to do so despite low levels of rainfall and a dry climate, which isn’t conducive to cultivating bananas.
India’s diverse climate and terrain allow for excellence in a variety of agricultural products, but there’s a city that produces so many bananas by itself that it could be a country of its own. Located in northwestern corner of Maharashtra, the quaint city of Jalgaon is accomplishing this feet despite the odds stacked against it.

Ordinarily to grow bananas, it’s prefered if the location gets a lot of rain. But, in contrast, Jalgaon has just enough to rain to sustain itself along with searing temperatures. However, the lone district manages to produce so much fruit that, in absolute numbers, it would be the seventh largest producer of bananas according to the Indian Express.

Their trade secret


The Jalgaon story becomes a little more cohesive when it’s realised that they at least have a railway station. But, the rest is still an uphill battle. And that’s when drip irrigation kicks in.

Previously, Jalgaon could only cater to 10,000 plants, on the best of days. But, with drip irrigation, they can cultivate 15,000 plants at once using the same 15 horsepower motor.

Not only has drip irrigation increased their output, but it’s also resulted in saving nearly 60-70% of the water according to farmers in the area. A lot of this can be credited to drip irrigation being able to accomplish more with just eight hours of electricity, than what the motor could accomplish over 24 hours using flood irrigation.

Once the water supply situation was accounted for, the issue of dry weather needed to be addressed. Fighting against nature’s default setting, all Jalgaon had to do was switch over from generic to high density planting. The method creates artificial humidity, helping the banana plants grow.

The last tweek to the program was tissue culture where more than the quantity of bananas, the focus was on quality. The main advantage of this method is that the yield ends up disease-free and is grown from genetically pure material.

Is it really that big a deal?


It’s no small feat to account for 70% of Maharashtra’s contribution to the national yield of bananas, but accomplishing it will 750mm of rainfall annually is another story altogether.

It should be noted that generally 2,000mm or more of rainfall is recommended for banana cultivation. It’s primarily why bananas are grown within the tropical belt in countries like Costa Rica, Ecuador and Colombia.

In turn, the term ‘Banana Republics’ is usually used in reference to Central American countries that dominate the market to such an extent that they have influence over everything from economic changes to regime shifts.