The following points highlight the top seven practices for fruit plant management. The practices are: 1. Training and Pruning of Fruit Trees 2. Bending of Scaffold 3. Ringing of Fruit Trees 4. Fruit Thinning 5. Spraying 6. Harvesting and Fruit Handling 7. Marketing of Fruits.
Practice # 1. Training and Pruning of Fruit Trees:
Training and pruning of fruit trees are the specialised horticultural operations. Training of the fruit trees should be done in such a manner that sufficient air and light gets penetrated inside the foliage to facilitate proper colouration and development of fruit of superior quality. Sufficient attention must, therefore, be given to training of young fruit trees to an appropriate system of training.
The deciduous fruit trees, like apple, pear, peach, plum, almond, apricot, grapes and phalsa need annual pruning, in order to keep them in proper vigour and for obtaining good fruit yields of superior quality over the years.
Pruning is an important horticultural practice, which is not properly understood and often neglected by the growers. The purpose of pruning, at any specific time, depends upon the age and kind of the fruit plant, vigour of the plant and whether it is bearing or non-bearing.
When a plant is staked or tied or supported over a trellis or pergola in certain fashion or some of its parts are removed or trimmed with a view to giving the plant a particular shape, the operation is called training.
Objectives of Training:
The main objectives of training are as follows:
(i) To admit more light and air to the centre of the tree.
(ii) To expose maximum leaf surface to the sun.
(iii) To direct the growth of the tree so that various cultural operations such as spraying and harvesting are performed at the lowest cost.
(iv) To protect the tree from wind damage.
(v) To secure a balanced distribution of fruit bearing parts on the main limbs of the tree.
The following training systems are in vogue in different kinds of fruit trees:
(i) Central Leader System:
The main trunk is allowed to grow and smaller side branches grow in various directions. This system approaches the natural type of growth of most trees. It provides a strong trunk with well-spaced and well-distributed branches with strong crotch angles. The trees under this system grow too tall and are less spreading. It is rather difficult to spray, prune, thin and harvest from trees trained to this system. The system is found most suitable for pear.
(ii) Open-Centre System:
The main trunk is allowed to grow upto 75 cm by cutting within a year of planting. All side branches are headed back. This system lacks strong crotches and provides weak frame work and as such is less satisfactory. However, it may be favoured in fruits like peaches and plums for admitting more sunlight for better colouration of the inside fruits. But under sub-tropical conditions where sunshine is plenty and there are strong winds during summer, this system is not suitable in view of the weak frame-work and other obvious defects.
(iii) Modified Leader System:
It is first trained like central leader by allowing stem to grow for the first two years, and then headed back at 75 cm height. Lateral branches are allowed to grow and cut back as in open centre system. With this system, the height of the tree is lowered as the length of main trunk is reduced.
The scaffold branches are encouraged to become larger and grow to greater length. The trees possess strong crotches and a durable frame-work. The system suits most of the commercial fruit trees because the height of the tree is comparatively less, which facilitates operation like spraying, pruning, harvesting, etc.
Pruning may be defined as the removal of any excess or undesirable branches, shoots, roots or any other parts of a plant so as to allow the remaining parts to grow normally or according to the desire of the pruner.
Objectives of Pruning:
The chief objectives of pruning are as follows:
(i) To remove the non-productive parts
(ii) To remove diseased, dried and broken branches
(iii) To remove the criss-crossed branches
(iv) To divert the energy into those parts that is capable of bearing fruits
(v) To allow the light to enter the interior of the tree.
(vi) To control the size of the plant
(vii) To regulate the fruit crop.
Generally, the trees are pruned annually in two ways:
(i) Heading Back:
When only one-third to one-half terminal portions of the branches, having their basal portions intact, are removed. Thus, the apical dominance of the twig, shoot or branch is destroyed and the lateral buds are stimulated to growth.
(ii) Thinning Out:
When the shoots or branches which are considered undesirable are removed entirely from the base or point of attachment with the main trunk or branches without leaving any stub. It encourages longer growth of the remaining terminals and net result is reduction of laterals. Sometimes this practice is used for the rejuvenation of older trees.
Time of Pruning:
The best time for pruning of deciduous fruit is winter when the trees become completely dormant after shedding their leaves. Pruning of pear, peach, plum and phalsa should be carried out during January, whereas in case of grapes the pruning should be initiated in the second forth-night of January and completed by first week of February.
Practice # 2. Bending of Scaffold:
It has been found that main branches with wide crotch angles come into bearing earlier than those growing upright. These scaffolds also give out secondary branches and help in the fast spread of trees. The scaffold bending if carried out manually helps in the reduction of juvenile period.
So fruit plants like pear, mango which come into bearing late can be trained by bending the scaffolds downward. Bending of branches in pear enhances spur formation and plants come into bearing at the age of four years only.
Practice # 3. Ringing of Fruit Trees:
The method of increasing fruit bud formation is termed as ringing. This practice is commonly followed in mango and grapevine. Ringing interrupts the downward passage of carbohydrates through the phloem causes them to accumulate in the part of the tree above the ring.
When a ring is made on a small branch just below a flower or flower cluster, fruits will be unusually big. Large amount of downward moving carbohydrates which collected above the ring, pass into the developing fruits or flowers.
Principles of Ringing:
The main principles of ringing are as follows:
(i) Ring of bark removed should be such as not to injure the cambium layer.
(ii) The healing of ring and complete restoration of new bark on the ringed portion is highly imperative after fruits have set.
(iii) Ringing should be practiced only on the trees which are vigorous in vegetative growth.
(iv) The week and exhausted trees should not be ringed.
(v) Ringing is employed to check vigour of the plant.
(vi) Ring should be done in early growing period so as to encourage blossom bud formation.
Method of Ringing:
Ringing is a specialized operation which needs a good skill. It is important to know that removal of girdle or bark is a drastic treatment. The width of the girdle should not be exceeded 1.0-1.5 cm. In big trees with stem of 25 cm or more diameter, ring may be made 2 cm wider.
Always ring on stem should be made where bark is smooth and free from knots. While doing ringing, press the point of a sharp knife up to required depth and should be pulled round the trunk until a circle is described by which time point of knife will have reached the starting position once again. Same operation is repeated at desired distance and in-between strip is peeled off.
Sometimes two half girdles can be removed instead of removing one complete girdle. These are less drastic than a single girdle. Instead of whole tree, few branches making excessive growth can be girdled. The girdled portion should be treated immediately and adhesive tape of same width may serve the purpose. A little neglect in treatment may result into death of the plant.
Ringing increase fruit set and berry size in grapevines due to increase in supply of carbohydrates above the ring. In mango, ringing of branches improve fruit yield during “off” year.
Practice # 4. Fruit Thinning:
Fruit thinning refers to the removal of some portion of fruit crop from the tree before its maturity in order to improve the general size and quality of the remaining crop.
Objectives of Thinning:
The broad objectives of thinning are as follows:
(i) Fruit thinning is necessary where uniform fruit is required for processing and canning or for table purpose or fancy trade.
(ii) It improves the size of remaining fruits on the tree and increases the marketable yield.
(iii) It helps in maintaining the vigour and productivity of the tree over a longer period.
(iv) It reduces the cost of picking and handling of the crop at harvest, by reducing the number of pickings of fruits from the tree.
(v) It improves the final colour, eating and keeping quality of fruits.
(vi) It reduces limb breakage of the tree.
Methods of Thinning:
Normally two methods are followed for thinning of fruits:
(i) Hand Thinning:
In this operation, start thinning first by shaking the branches lightly to dislodge some of the fruits which are likely to drop off naturally. If there is still surplus fruit, then start thinning from top to the bottom of the branches. Hold the stem, (Dandi) of the fruit to be removed between thumb and second finger and pull it off gently. The main point to be kept in mind while thinning is to remove all the small, undersized, misshapen, insect or disease attacked fruits.
The job of thinning by hands can be done more efficiently by employing women or young boys and girls with a little training and supervision as compared with the stiff fingered persons engaged in hard-work.
(ii) Chemical Thinning:
Ethephon, Naphthalene acetic acid and sevin are used as chemicals for thinning in different fruits. These chemicals are applied at full bloom stage. In the use of chemicals, the time and rate of application are very critical. In peach, ethephon @ 200-300 ppm is applied 30-40 days after full bloom, whereas Naphthalene acetic acid @ 25-50 ppm is applied 15-20 days after full bloom. Planofix sprayed at full bloom period (75% flowering) of peach @ 25 ppm is effective in flower thinning in Flordasun and Shan-i-Punjab varieties.
Practice # 5. Spraying:
Spraying the fruit plants against timely control of insect-pests and diseases is the important horticultural practice. Widely used method of application of fungicides is spraying on leaves. By spraying a thin film of fungicide adhered to leaf surface, it destroy fungal spores present on it.
Some phenyl/mercury fungicides enter into the host tissues and eradicate the pathogen already invaded. In these days, systematic fungicides are widely used for spraying which enter into the host tissues, persist in the host protoplasm and provide resistance to host against any fungal infection.
Fungicide suspension does not adhere to leaf surface. It remains in small droplets and subsequently it may be larger in size with other droplets and ultimately they may be shredded off. To overcome this problem, some wetting agents are mixed with the suspension. Similarly, spreaders and stickers are also used to have long term and better efficiency of the fungicides.
Spraying is done with the help of knapsac sprayer, foot sprayer and power sprayer. The operational principles of sprayer are that a pump generates pressure in the spray-fluid and releases it through a nozzle along with small droplets of the spray-fluid.
Spraying should be undertaken immediately as the first signs of a disease or a pest appear on the trees. Tree and bush spraying requires high pressure to ensure good coverage of the foliage. Both the lower and the upper surfaces of the leaves should be covered with sprays. The spray concentrations should in no case exceed the recommendation.
Leaves can be sprayed when they are dry, stems and roots are sprayed when the ground is damp. If possible, spraying must be done after irrigation. Spraying should not be done in the middle of the day during hot, dry periods. During high wind, spraying should be avoided.
Practices # 6. Harvesting and Fruit Handling:
Utmost care needs to be taken while harvesting and handling of fruits. The fruits should be picked only at a proper stage of maturity. Sorting and grading should be regularly practiced before the fruits are marketed so that they sell at a premium. The fruits should be sent immediately to markets after packing them properly. The low grade and cull fruits may be used profitably for the preparation of preserved products.
It is a common experience to find the contractors and even some growers harvesting the fruits while still immature and dumping those in the markets. This practice causes ill-effects on the human health.
Good quality of fruits is obtained when harvesting is done at the proper stage of maturity. Immature fruits when harvested will give poor quality and erratic ripening. On the other hand, delayed harvesting of fruits may increase their susceptibility to decay, resulting in poor quality and hence low market value. Moreover, if the produce is to be shipped to distant markets or stored to wait for a better price, it should be picked in the mature but unripe state.
The degree of maturity for harvest is of prime importance which depends on whether the fruit is meant for long distance transport or local consumption. Maturity indices differ considerably among fruits and their varieties. Fruits like mango and banana are harvested when they are mature, others like citrus, pineapple and grapes are ripened on the plant itself.
Several parameters have been suggested to judge and harvest maturity of different fruits such as firmness, total soluble solids, (TSS), acid-sugar ratio, flesh colour, starch content, pulp/peel ratio, days after fruit set etc. But none of these appear to be adopted in practice. Traditionally, maturity is determined by the shape, colour, size, development of aroma, disappearance of astringency etc,
In general, manual harvesting is followed. Fruits require different methods of harvesting which vary according to the type of fruits. Green and mature mangoes are harvested manually with the help of bamboo pole with a net attached and lowered to the ground in a basket with the help of a rope. Mature banana bunches are cut at the stalk end retaining 30 cm length with the help of a sharp sickle.
Citrus fruits are plucked or clipped manually and are collected in baskets. Grape bunches are clipped with scissors. Papaya is harvested by twisting the fruit till it snaps off. Pineapple is picked by giving a downward bend until the peduncle breaks off. Apple peaches and plums are harvested by skilled labour. Litchi and dates are harvested by their stalks. Ber is harvested by shaking the branches.
Two methods are followed for harvesting of fruits. The factors which should be taken into consideration are the perishability of the fruit, economy of labour and market requirements.
(i) Hand Harvesting:
This is commonly followed method of harvesting of fruits. The fruits like strawberries and raspberries are very soft which are borne on low growing plants, harvesting is done by simply removing them from the plant and putting them into a suitable containers. The fruits like mango, citrus and avocados are difficult to harvest. Ladder is used to reach the fruit. This is time consuming process. Picking platforms which can be raised and lowered are used by the harvesters.
(ii) Mechanical Harvesting:
Very little fruit required for fresh market is harvested by machines because the likely damage could result in rapid deterioration in quality during marketing chain. The fruits required for processing may be harvested mechanically. The oranges for juice extraction may be removed from the trees by powerful wind machines being dragged through the orchards followed by a device for collecting the oranges from ground.
Tree shakers can also be used which are attached to the tree trunk and violently shake the tree to dislodge the fruits. Chemical sprays are used in certain fruits for the formation of natural abscission layer on the fruit stalk and should be applied a few days prior to harvesting. Ethrel, Abscisic acid and cycloheximide are effective chemicals for this purpose.
Grapes and soft fruits for processing may be harvested by tractor mounted machines with combing fingers which are run up the stems, pulling of the fruit branches as well as a high proportion of the leaves.
Mango harvesters are developed at Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli (Maharashtra) and CISH, Lucknow. These harvesters harvest the fruits with 1-2 cm long pedicel and harvesting capacity is 50-177 kg fruit per hour.
Handling of Fruits:
The fruits like mango, banana, papaya, sapota, guava, apple, avocado, apricot, peach, pear, and plum are climacteric in nature and, therefore, require careful handling. The fruits like citrus, grape, ber, pomegranate, litchi, pineapple and cherry are non-climacteric in nature
Grading of fruits should be regularly practiced. Systematic grading is a pre-requisite for efficient marketing system and raising the quality of fruits. Grading is a critically important process because produce presentation is judged on the basis of uniformity.
Grading prescribed for many fruits is based on physical characteristics like weight, size, colour, shape and free from diseases which vary depending on the agro-climatic conditions.
Grading of fruits is done with different methods as follows:
(i) Manual grading
(ii) Partly mechanical and partly manual grading
(iii) Mechanical grading
(iv) Optical methods of grading-colour grading, spectrophotometric techniques, delayed light emission and colour meters.
The proper grade standards prescribed for each fruit should be followed.
Proper packaging helps in efficient marketing of fruits as it protects from mechanical damage, moisture loss, pilferage and dirt. Wooden crates, corrugated fibre board cartons, gunny bags, jute and plastic pack and poly-nets are now used for packing of different fruits.
Mango, banana, pineapple fruits are transported as free load in trucks. Paper shavings, dry grass, saw dust, pulp trays, honey-comb partition, cell pack etc. are being used as cushion materials. The use of corrugated fibre board cartons for storage and transport of apples and grapes have proved successful in reducing spoilage.
The usual transport for marketing of fruits is by head-load, bullock cart, trucks and rail. Refrigerated and insulated wagons/trucks are used worldwide for transportation of perishable fruits. Atmospheric control and in-transit control of levels of oxygen, carbon-dioxide and removal of ethylene and other volatiles from the cargo space could be helpful.
Storage losses of fresh produce are high in India due to high temperature and humidity. Storage at low temperature immediately after harvest reduces the rate of respiration resulting in reduction of build-up of the respiration heat, thermal decomposition, and microbial spoilage and also helps in retention of quality and freshness for a long period.
The storage life, however, is governed by variety, stage of maturity, infection at the time of harvest, harvest interval, rate of cooling, storage temperature, RH, rate of accumulation of carbon dioxide, pre-packing, air distribution system and utilization of storage space, etc.
Storage of fruits in controlled or modified atmosphere is an important practice. Combined with low temperature, it markedly retards respiratory activity and delays softening, senescence and changes in quality and colour of the stored fruits.
Practice # 7. Marketing of Fruits:
Marketing plays a key role in the post-harvest operation of fruit. A perfect and efficient marketing system covers all aspects of handling from the stage of harvesting till the commodity reaches the consumer. Marketing of perishable fruits presents more problems as compared to other agricultural commodities. The interests of the producers as well as consumers are poorly served. The growers always get less return of his produce and consumer pays more than is necessary.
Due to the presence of the middleman the price of fruits is 50-100 per cent higher in terminal market (mandis) than in growing areas. The middle men are also known to manipulate the situation by artificially creating gluts and offering low price to the growers. They falsely reject the fruits as substandard and indulge in other malpractices. The cooperative systems can play a very important role in the marketing of fresh fruits.
The growers are facing some other problems in the way of marketing the fruits which are as follow:
(a) Inadequate Post-Harvest Infrastructure:
i. The inadequate post-harvest infrastructure leads to 20-30 percent post harvest losses.
ii. The growth in cold storage facilities meant for fruits only and processing industry is not keeping pace with the increased production of fruits thus facing the growers to dispose off their produce at throw away prices.
iii. After harvest, fruits need to be transferred to cooling units within half an hour. Due to poor cold storage and CA storage facilities, losses further increased.
(b) Imperfect Competition:
i. Because of perishable nature of the fruits, it is difficult to create time and space utilities.
ii. Imperfect competition is prevailing in the fruit trade. Only few influential traders are involved in this business.
(c) Insufficient Information:
Growers get insufficient information of limited markets regarding prices of their produce which shows large variation in daily prices. Thus, growers have to face problems in getting the best price for their produce.
Steps for Better Marketing of Fruits:
1. Fruit markets need to be properly regulated. There should be fixed commission- monitory system to save the growers from exploitation. Modern methods should be used in these markets.
2. There is an urgent need to set up an efficient market information network so that growers can get timely and adequate market related information which will help to them to get better price of their produce. Thus, growers can negotiate with the traders with strength.
3. Creation of marketing organisations near fruit growing areas is needed. Such organisations should provide facilities to growers like credit at lower rate of interests, supply various inputs, transport and make arrangement for speedy pick up of produce from orchard to markets so that post-harvest losses can be minimized.
4. A system should be developed where the growers can sell the fruits directly to the consumers at retail outlets without the involvement of middlemen.
5. Cold storage with variable temperature set up as per fruit need should be established so that the growers can save the perishable product from the losses occurring due to glut during peak marketing season to earn better profit during lean period.
6. Refrigerated transport facility (cold chain system) should be strengthened to facilitate efficient marketing of fruits to reduce post-harvest losses.
7. Processing units in fruit growing areas should be established where the growers can sell the surplus fruits conveniently. Contact farming system should be encouraged in this regard.
8. Producers need to be organized into cooperate marketing societies, which should take care of marketing of the fruits. These societies can effectively replace the middlemen.
9. Foreign markets should be tapped. Improved varieties of fruits should be developed for ready acceptance in the foreign markets.
10. Support price of the commercial fruits grown in the state should be fixed.
11. Fruit crops should be covered under comprehensive crop insurance scheme to save the growers from losses occurred due to natural calamities.