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DECIDUOUS FRUIT PRODUCTION IN ZIMBABWE

INTRODUCTION

Deciduous fruits are of temperate origin though varieties of them can be grown in the
cooler tropics. The fruits are divided into two main divisions: The pome (apples, pears,
and quinces) and the stone (peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots). Research in these
crops is being carried out at the Nyanga Experiment Station and at The Horticultural
Research Centre (Marondera) but because of the perennial nature of the crop most
projects are of a long-term nature.

1.CHOICE OF SITE

Deciduous fruit production is along term operation and it is important that orchards are
properly sited. The major points to consider are climate, water availability soil type and
depth. A lot of attention has to be given to access to markets.

1.1 Climate

1.1.1 Temperature
Require an average maximum of 9 degrees Celsius for the two months of June and July
and low temperatures during August. Temperature in Zimbabwe is a function of altitude
and deciduous fruit production is restricted to areas above 1500m. Some peach, pear,
apples and plum varieties can be grown at altitudes lower than this. Southerly and
easterly aspects will get more chilling from wind though they might be need to protect
the trees from wind.

1.1.2 Rainfall

Annual rainfall of 1000 mm is ideal. High rainfall though is associated with a high
incidence of fungal infection. Irrigation is essential where rainfall is not adequate

1.1.3 Frost

Naturally pome fruits are resistant to frost while Stone fruits which blossom early need to
be grown in frost-free areas.

1.1.4 Hail

Can cause tremendous damage. It is not a regular occurrence though but some areas are
more prone than others are. Hail nets can be put up to protect the orchards but that
depends on the prevalence to justify the expenditure.

1.1.5 Soil

Requires deep well-drained soils with a reasonable water holding capacity. Apples will
grow in a wide range of soils from clays to sandy loams. Pears are more tolerant of
poorly drained soils but will not stand water logging. Apricots require good drainage. A
pH of 5.5 on a calcium chloride scale is optimum for deciduous fruit production.

1.1.6 Water

Since supplementary irrigation is important the orchard should be located next to a water
source.

2. Planting

On a level site trees can be planted in a regular manner . On slopping sites deviations
from regular design may be necessary. Stone fruits grow into larger trees than pome fruits
and need to be spaced slightly far apart compared to the later. Enough room between the
rows to allow for easier passage of tractors. The following recommendations can be
adapted for spreading or upright varieties.

INROW (m) INTERROW (m) # OF TREES /HA


Canning peaches 2.0 4.0 1 260
Dessert peaches 2.0 4.0 1 260
Plums 2.0 4.0 1 260
Apples 2.0 4.0 1 260
Apricots 2.0 4.0 1 260
Pears 2.0 4.0 1 260
Palmette apples 2.75-3.6 3.6-4.5 620-1 260

Some deciduous fruit tree varieties are self-sterile and will need a different apple variety
to function as a pollinator. Peaches, apricots and nectarines will set fruit with their own
pollen and are therefore planted in blocks of one variety. Apples, pears and plums usually
have to be planted in blocks two varieties to ensure cross-pollination. The ideal pollinator
is the one that flowers at the same time as the main variety, requires the same spray
programme and is of good commercial value itself.

Pollinators however are not always varieties of good commercial value in such a situation
the pollinator should be planted in the minimum possible way that will induce adequate
pollination. It is recommended that it be planted at the ratio of one pollinator to nine
trees. Growers should note that flowering dates for different varieties are a function of
climate for this reason the varieties given as pollinators are suggestions and may not have
synchrony with the varieties mentioned at some localities.

The planting season is June to August. It can also be done up to December when the trees
are in pots and they are planted together with the soil around the root ball. Peaches should
be planted earlier to prevent losses resulting from early leafing out. Trees (natural bush or
old fruit trees) should be ring barked at least two seasons prior to envisaged planting. (To
control Armilaria root rot) The trees with as much root material should then be removed.
If it is possible they should be two seasons with no trees growing in the field.

Land should be ploughed to a depth of 400 mm after which lime and fertilizer can be
added and disced in. If the land was previously under cropping the land could be marked
and planting holes prepared right away. Prepare planting holes 600mm x 600mm x
600mm. The topsoil should be separated from the subsoil. The topsoil is mixed with
either compost or manure and basal fertilizer and the mixture are used to fill in the
planting hole. The subsoil is reserved for the basin.

3. Fertilization

Initial application of 750g – 1000g Compound S or J per planting hole mixed with topsoil
and 1000g of lime.
Or 500g single super phosphate
300g Sulphate of potash or Murate of Potash
300g ammonium nitrate
Top dressing is 350g per tree compound S/J during non-cropping years.

During the cropping years

When trees start to crop their nutrient requirements increase considerably and it is
necessary to give larger fertilizer top dressings. The actual quantities to be given will
depend on the performance of the tree. The following figures will give a rough estimate
required by well-grown trees producing a good crop.

Apples, Pears and Apricots


0.5 –1.0 kg /tree single super phosphate
0 – 0.5 kg/tree Muriate of potash
1.0–1.5 kg /tree Ammonium nitrate

Peaches, Nectarines and Plums.


0.5-1.0 kg/tree single super phosphate
0.2-0.5 kg/tree Muriate of Potash
0.2-1.0 kg/tree Ammonium nitrate

At bud break 6 weeks after bud October-November


(July) break ( After harvest)
Nitrogen 1/3 1/3 1/3
Phosphorus 1/2 1/2
Potassium 1/2 1/2
The fertilizers should be applied to the soil surface in the rooting area of the tree and be
slightly worked into the soil.

3. Irrigation

3.1 Young trees:

Planting stations should be irrigated with about 15 litres of water 2-3 days prior planting.
Immediately after planting 20 litres of water should be added. Thereafter irrigation should
be when necessary. Mulching helps to conserve water.

3.2 Mature trees:

20 litres of water should be applied per tree once every week starting from flowering.
During the winter months watering may be done once every 3 weeks. The most economic
way to irrigate a young orchard is through applying water to basins constructed around
the base of the each tree. The basins should be gradually enlarged each year to keep pace
with the expanding root system. Where possible, drip or microjet irrigation is encouraged
since it is more economic.

4. Pruning

There are two phases of pruning in the life of a deciduous tree. The first phase is from the
time of planting to the first fruiting. The second phase is pruning of a cropping tree.

4.1 Phase one

The first years of growth of a tree are critical, as the mistakes made in the basic shape are
difficult or impossible to correct as the tree matures. They may reduce the cropping
capacity of the tree.
There are a number of pruning systems that have been designed, but whatever the system
the chief aim is to produce a well balanced tree furnished with young growth low down
as well as on top, with every shoot receiving sufficient light and air for its proper
development. At planting cut back trees to about 75 — 90 cm from the ground. Remove
during the growing season all suckers arising from the graft union and below. This is
done best when shoots are still small (when they can be rubbed off with a finger).
Removal of larger shoots may result in wounds, which may serve as entry points for
diseases.

First winter after planting Select 3-4 scaffold (main) branches evenly spread round the
main trunk and approximately 10 cm vertically. Branches with wide crotch angles are
stronger and more able to withstand heavy crop loads without breaking. If trees are to be
trained to the centre leader form the top most shoot must be trained upwards. Any
diseased, damaged, or dead wood should be removed (care being taken to keep pruning to
the necessary minimum unless trees are weak and small.) Hard pruning during the early
years will delay cropping of trees.

4.2 Second winter after planting

On cropping trees the objective is to maintain a balance between vegetative growth and
fruiting. Dead, diseased and damaged wood should be cut out first. Shoots infected with
powdery mildew should be cut back to a healthy bud. If branches are to be tied down, this
is best done before pruning to make the pruning operation easier and lighter. Normally
leader shoots are cut back by about a third to encourage lateral branch development but
should be left uncut on vigorously growing trees with little fruiting wood. All water
shoots are cut cleanly at their point of origin (Thinning cut).
When prunning older fruit trees, clean cut the branches below.

A. Suckers.
B. Stubs or broken branches.
C. Downward-growing branches
D. Rubbing or criss-crossing branches
E. Shaded interior branches
F. Competing leaders
G. Narrow crotches
Whorls

5. Fruit thinning

In Zimbabwe deciduous fruits usually set large crops. This must be thinned in order to
produce fruit of a reasonable size. Thinning also improves both quality and size of fruit.
Fruitlets should be removed as early as possible to give maximum benefit to the
remaining crop. The first thinning should be carried out within the first weeks of petal
fall, and the second after the natural fruit drop. Thinning should be completed in stone
fruit before hardening of the stone and on pome fruits before 2-4 weeks after full bloom
and should be complete 40-50 days after full bloom. Two to three clusters should be left
for pome and for stone fruits a firm shake of the tree will dislodge those that would have
dropped naturally. The thinning should aim to remove all excess fruit such that the
remaining fruit has sufficient room to develop and do not strain the tree.

6. Picking

Fruit should be picked when it is at the correct stage of ripeness. It should be firm enough
to withstand handling and transport and to remain edible for a reasonable period of time.
Not all fruit of one variety will ripen at the same time so picking will have to be done
several times. Although there are methods to test ripeness experience counts for a great
deal. Peaches usually changes colour from dark green to light green or yellow and
become smooth.

7. Pests

Deciduous fruits may be attacked by a large number of pests. These pests not only cause
direct loses by actual destruction of the fruit but may also cause deformation of the fruit
rendering it unmarketable. The various species, which feed on leaves and shoots of fruit
trees, cause loss of vigour and die back of shoots or the entire tree. In major deciduous
fruit growing areas of the world a routine spray programme has to be followed to keep
pests under control. In Zimbabwe it is advisable to spray when the pest is sighted and it is
important to take control measures at the first sign of damage. The only exception is the
fruit fly, which should be controlled as a matter of routine.

7.1 Fruit fly (Pterandus rosa K)

The sting damage caused by the fruit fly is sometimes visible on the surface of the fruit in
the form of exudation especially if the fruit is green. The larvae are usually present in the
fruit flesh and if rotting will have reached an advanced stage. A discoloured spot on the
surface of the fruit is clearly visible.

7.1.1 Control

Good orchard hygiene is essential for fruit fly control. Weeds should be kept down and
damaged or fallen fruit should be removed and buried deeply. A workable control
programme starts during the winter months with bait applications to their wintering
positions such as home gardens or any other tree bearing fruit at the time, at monthly
intervals. It is always possible to treat all trees and every second row will do with peaches
whilst on apples with light infestations only the outside rows are treated. Results with bait
applications are usually effective if there is co-ordination among neighbouring farmers.
The bait sprays are made up of the following ingredients:
A good insecticide e.g. Malathion (57g).
An attractant E.g. sugar (1.4 kg)
A solvent, water (18 litres)

The insecticide Lebaycid sprayed at a rate of 10ml/15litres of water at ten day intervals
has been used successfully as a full cover spray and kills both the adult and the maggot
inside the fruit. It is an effective control against infection and re-infestation. However
Lebaycid should not be used where the fruits are to be exported to the European markets.

7.2 Fruit piercing moths (Othreis materna L., Serrodes partia F., Calpe spp.)
Often cause severe damage to deciduous fruit, attacking a wide range of ripening fruits.
Soft fruits such as grapes, peaches and plums are preferred but citrus and unripe apples
are frequently attacked. Not all moths found associated with ripe orchards are fruit
piercers. A number of species are fruit sucking moths which do not cause primary
damage, but merely feed on previously damaged fruit. These are usually more abundant
and conspicuous than the fruit piercing moths.

7.2.1 Control

Each evening the orchard is invaded by a new wave of fruit piercing moths and this
makes chemical control less likely to succeed. The only way of controlling these
insects is to lure or repel them away from orchards. Bright light at night suppresses
the flight of fruit piercing moths and barriers of artificial light may provide a means
of control.

7.3 Scale insects Pernicious scale (Quadraspidiotus perniciosus C)., Soft brown scale
(Coccus hesperidium )

Various species of scale insects cause debilitation and even die back of fruit trees. Most
of these scale are very small, usually mobile only when very young and completely static
for the remainder of their lives. They feed by sucking the sap of tress through long,
needle like mouthparts and some inject toxins into the trees.

7.3.1 Control

Scale infested prunings left lying in the orchard are a source of infestation and spreading
of the scale insect. Orchard hygiene should be practiced as a priority. Two sprays are
normally used, the first being before pruning, during the nearly winter and the second
with late winter sprays. These winter applications are usually quite effective, as the spray
coverage is good owing to the absence of leaves. Parathion sprayed at a rate of 56g/14
litres of water can be very effective.

7.4 Stinkbugs (Nezara viridula L)

As the main breeding ground of the insect is outside the orchard the damage is usually
found on the periphery of the an orchard or near pine windbreaks. The damage is caused
when bug pierces the fruit during the blossom period or shortly afterwards, with its long,
sharp mouthparts and sucks out the sap. While feeding it is possible that the bugs inject
toxins into the fruit. Since the fruit would have been injured it does not grow in the area
of the wound. This results in a depression of this part as the rest of the fruit grows. The
earlier the damage the greater the malformation. If there are multiple stings the fruit
becomes greatly malformed.
7.4.1 Control

Usually by the time the fruit damage is noticed it is too late to apply direct control
measures during the same season. However damaged fruit may be removed during
thinning. As soon as any infestation is noticed a spray should be applied. A number of
insecticides can be used in the control but endosulfan is recommended. It is less harmful
to bees and other beneficial insects and is also effective against caterpillars and aphids.
Carbaryl is very effective sprayed at 30g/ 15 litres of water

7.5 Woolly apple aphid (Eriosoma lanigerum H)

It gets its name from its characteristic white woolly appearance, which is a waxy
secretion. Underneath this the insect is dark red. The first and common damage is on the
above ground parts. The sites of infection are around pruning wounds and on one and two
year shoots. The aphids make their appearance as fluffy white patches. It has long needle
like mouthparts, which it inserts into the tree when it feeds. The second damage occurs
unnoticed on the roots. The aphid feeds in the same way as on shoots leading to
malformation of the roots leading to stunting and low vitality.

7.5.1 Control

Inspection of orchards for the presence of aphids should start at bud swell. When any sign
of the aphid is detected an effective insecticide such as malathion is very
effective.

8. Diseases

8.1 Bitter rot

Caused by Glomerella cingulata and affects apple, pear, and quince. It is more prevalent
in high rainfall areas. Slightly sunken soft brown patches appear on the fruit and
gradually enlarge. These patches may eventually bear concentric circles of spore pustules.
Fruit is most susceptible near maturity; the rot may develop in storage after infection in
the orchard.

8.1.1 Control

Removal of dead fruit, dead wood and fire blighted twigs is important in the control of
the disease. Fungicides applied on a10 to 14-day interval from petal fall until harvest, are
the most important means of control. More frequent applications may be necessary under
conditions favorable for disease development. Dithane and copper oxychloride both
sprayed at a rate of 30g/ per 15 litres of water can be very effective.

8.2 Canker and Die-back

Caused by Botryosphaeria ribis and is a disease of apple trees. It is usually only found in
trees, which have weakened in some way due to drought, sunscald, delayed foliation or
trace element deficiencies. Slightly sunken areas of rough or papery bark occur on the
main stem or branches. The wood below these patches is brown and dead. It can girdle
the stem and cause death of all above growth.

8.2.1 Control

Remove girdled branches, making the cut at least 150 mm into healthy wood, and paint
the cut surface with a thick paste made of copper oxychloride and linseed oil. Improve
the general management of the orchard.

8.3 Crown gall

Caused by Agrobacterium tumefaciens and can attack all deciduous fruit trees. Usually of
little importance but can be destructive if young trees are infected. Large galls appear on
the stem and/or roots at ground level. Soft at first but they become woody later.

8.3.1 Control

The use of disease free nursery stock is extremely important to avoid the disease.
Biological control has been achieved else where in the world with non-pathogenic
isolates of A. radiobacter var. radiobacter (Strain 84).

8.4 Fruit rot

Caused mainly by Rhizopus stolonifer and attacks all stone fruit but is most damaging on
canning peaches. Soft brown rotten patches appear on the fruit, usually after harvest.
Progress of the disease is very rapid once symptoms appear. Fruit is completely rotten in
three to four days.

8.4.1 Control

Avoid damage when handling fruit, and keep it as cool as possible. Orchard sprays may
be necessary to protect the fruit from insect from insect attack and reduce the incidence
of primary infection. The fruit should be harvested at optimal maturity, handled with care
and treated with a post harvest fungicide.

8.5 Leaf curl

Caused by Taphrina deformans and attacks the leaves of peaches and nectarines in the
spring. Part of the leaf blade becomes thickened, puckered and curled. It usually turns
yellowish green or red.

8.5.1 Control

A single spray using correct material, if applied before bud swell will provide nearly
perfect control of leaf curl. July spays after the majority of the leaves have
fallen or September sprays within 3 to 4 weeks of bud swell are effective, if
applied thoroughly, thiram sprayed 30g/ 15 litres of water is very effective.

8.6 Powdery Mildew

Is caused by a number of fungi, which comprise Sphaerotheca pannosa, Podospphaera


leucotricha, Oidium spp. A white mould grows on the leaves and shoots causing reduced
growth. Grey or pink mould on fruit flesh becomes hard and leathery. In peaches and
nectarines the leaves and fruit are attacked. Only the leaves and shoots of apples are
attacked and only the fruit of plums is affected.

8.6.1 Control

A very effective measure to eliminate the primary sources of infection is to cut them out
during pruning time in winter. They usually look stunted or have died back. It is good to
repeat this operation some time during the early season in order to remove some shoots
that would have been overlooked during the earlier operation. A spray programme can
also be followed with a fungicide against secondary infection. Spray intervals for the
programme should be 7 days until mid November. The short intervals protect the very
rapid extension growth during the summer months. After mid November, spray intervals
of 14 days should be quite adequate.

8.7 Root rot

Caused by Armillaria mellea, a soil borne fungi and attacks all deciduous fruit trees and
usually causes sudden death. Trees are usually ailing and fan shaped plates of white
fungus will be found beneath the bark at the base of the trunk and in the roots.

8.7.1 Control
Newly cleared forestland or fields with a history of Armillaria root rot should not be
planted to susceptible crops. Apple is considered moderately susceptible, the pear is
tolerant and some varieties of the plum are tolerant. If replanting infested tree sites is
attempted, the soil should be well worked up and as many old roots as possible should be
removed. Fumigation has been moderately effective in controlling the disease because the
fungus can survive deep in the soil. This is particularly true where heavy soils restrict the
movement of fumigants.

8.8 Rust

Caused by Tranzschelia pruni-spinosae and attacks all stone fruit trees. Small pale yellow
spots show on the upper surface of mature leaves and are corresponding brown pustules
below. Infected leaves can become brightly coloured. Severe attacks can cause early
defoliation. Occasionally peach and apricot fruit are attacked.

8.8.1 Control

Several fungicides are highly effective against the rust diseases. They should be applied
periodically from the pink stage of bud development to third cover to protect the
emerging leaves and developing fruit. Copper oxychlorie sprayed at 70g/14 litres
of water or Dithane sprayed 30g/ 15 litres of water can be effective.

8.9 Scab

Caused by Venturia inaequalis and is common in Zimbabwe. It can be a serious problem


in high rainfall areas. The leaves develop a faint olive green spot, which gradually turn
black. Infected fruits become distorted and cracked. Spots on the fruit may remain small
with a reddish brown halo.

8.9.1 Control

Apple breeding programmes to develop high quality, disease resistant varieties has
resulted in the release of several varieties that show a tolerance to this disease. Prevention
of perithecial formation in over-wintering leaves would probably eliminate scab. Making
applications of nitrogen to the foliage during the autumn months to hasten the
decomposition process can reduce the potential for severe scab. The use of fungicide
sprays or dusts primarily control Apple scab. A variety of fungicides are available; how
and when they are used depends on their mode of action. Resistance to scab fungicides
has occurred with benzimidazole fungicides (e.g. Benlate). Resistance develops where
high and continuous selection pressures such as from using one or closely related
fungicides exclusively year after year exist. Thus, benomyl-resistant scab occurs were the
fungicide has been used for regularly for about 3 years.

8.10 Sooty mould


Gloeodes pomigena grows on the honeydew exuded by scale insects and aphids. It is not
directly damaging to the trees but if it is present in large quantities can reduce the
efficiency of the leaves.

8.10.1 Control

If the insects which are the source of the honeydew are eliminated the problem is
controlled. The mould can be wiped off the fruit after harvest. Insecticides like carbaryl
can very effective sprayed at 30g/15 litres of water.