Banana is arguably the most important fruit crop both for subsistence and commercial uses in Ethiopia. Experimental evaluation of seven introduced (Poyo, Grand Naine, Butuza, Dwarf Cavendish, Giant Cavendish, Williams and Robusta) and a local banana variety was carried out using replicated RCBD to investigate agronomic performances and physical fruit characteristics at the Enchete, South Omo, Ethiopia. Overall, 17 quantitative traits were evaluated for three banana crop cycles from 2015 – 2017 in the field experiment. The experimental results revealed varietal differences were significant (P < 0.05) for crop phenological, growth performance, fruit physical characteristics and yield and yield related parameters. Varieties took 468.33 to 555.33 days from planting to harvesting. Only some of the tested varieties (Butuza, Dwarf Cavendish, Poyo and Williams) matured significantly (P < 0.05) earlier (75 - 82 days) than the Local check (550 days). Dwarf Cavendish had a maximum finger weight of 168 g, 173.6 g and 169.3 g in the three crop cycles with the highest weight at the second crop cycle and showed a significant difference over Local check. The maximum recorded fruit yield of 52.57 ton ha-1 for Dwarf Cavendish was 1.75 fold higher and with 21.8 ton ha-1 more yield advantage than the yield of Local check. Consistently, better fruit physical characteristics in terms of finger weight, length and girth were recorded for Dwarf Cavendish, Poyo and Giant Cavendish whereas in contrast, the lowest record for all the parameters across the crop cycles was for the Local check. Varieties combining multiple desirable agronomic traits such as the early maturing high yielders with better fruit physical quality characteristics including the likes of Dwarf Cavendish, Poyo or Giant Cavendish should be considered for South Omo with further multi-location trials and consumer quality preference tests.
Keywords: Agronomic performance; Banana production systems; Banana varieties; Bunch yield; Ethiopia; Fruit physical characteristics; South Omo