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Effects of poultry manure and bunch pruning management on fruit size, shelf life and pulp colour of PITA 24 and MbiEgome plantains (Musa sp. AAB group)
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Fruit size is an important commercial characteristic for markets specializing in plantains. Bunch pruning and appropriate soil fertility management are measures adopted to improve the fruit size of Musacrops in many countries. This study investigated the combined effects of poultry manure and bunch pruning intensity on fruit metric traits, shelf life and pulp colour of ‘PITA 24’ (a plantain hybrid) and ‘Mbi-Egome’ (a plantain landrace). The effects of poultry manure applied at 0, 10 or 20 t/ha and bunch pruning at 0, 20 or 40 % intensity were studied on fruit metric traits (weight, length, girth, edible proportion), shelf life and pulp colour of ‘PITA 24’ and ‘Mbi-Egome’ plantains. Micro-propagated suckers were used in the study. Poultry manure was split-applied as half the calculated dose during planting (using a split combination of top-dressing with base placement), and the complement applied at the onset of flowering (i.e., 6 months after planting) as top-dressing. Bunch pruning, the removal of male bud with some two or more hands of fruits, was carried out at the distal portion of the bunch as soon as the last hand emerged. Pruning intensity denotes the proportion of the entire hands of fruits (borne on the infrutescence) that was severed during pruning. Compared to no-manure treatment, bunch yield and individual fruit size increased when manure was applied at 10t/ha. However, yield and fruit size decreased significantly (P < 0.05) when manure was applied at 20 t/ha, relative to the 10 t/ha rate, which could be related to mineral imbalances or excesses that occur when large amounts of poultry manure or compost are used. Shelf life decreased from 16 to 14 days, while pulp lightness (*L) increased significantly (P < 0.05) following manure application. In contrast, pulp yellowness (*b) and redness (*a) declined with increasing manure rate. A sequential improvement in fruit size, shelf life and pulp colour (*b and *a) was observed with increased pruning intensity. There was no significant weight difference between the non-pruned bunches and those pruned at 40% intensity. However, bunch weight was heaviest in the plants pruned at 20% intensity. In both clones, pulp lightness decreased with ripeness while *b and *a values were highest at senescence. ‘Mbi-Egome’ produced bigger fruits of deeper pulp yellowness and redness, whereas bunch weight was heavier in ‘PITA 24’. This study revealed that bunch pruning improves the overall fruit quality of plantains, and that benefits of pruning management would be enhanced by combining bunch pruning with 10 t/ha of poultry manure per annum.