Weed management in banana production: the use of Nelsonia canescens (Lam.) Spreng as a non-leguminous cover crop.
During a survey of weeds in the Tiko banana plantations, the plant Nelsonia canescens (Lam.) Spreng was found to have invaded large areas of the plantation with no visible adverse effects on the banana crop. The effects of this Acanthaceae on banana yield parameters, snails' population and weed species diversity and abundance were evaluated, with the intension of recommending the plant as a cover crop in weed management in banana plantations. Of the 73 weed species identified in Tiko banana plantation, only nine were found growing in association with N. canescens. These weed species also showed reduced abundance and vigour. The reduction in abundance ranged from 60 to 100%. The reduction in abundance was more pronounced during the dry season when cover crop growth was dense, than in the rainy season when there was reduced growth. The pseudo-stem circumference, bunch weight and hand class were significantly higher (p>/0.05) for plants grown with cover crop than for those grown without. The number of snails on and around the pseudo-stem was also significantly reduced in banana grown with N. canescens cover crop than in plants grown without. N. canescens has an added advantage in that it is prostrate and does not climb on the banana pseudo-stem. This may be a good alternative weed management tool in banana production. The techniques of mass production need to be developed.