Citrus Production, Part 2 Orchard Management

Fruit tree production is assuming a general importance and have direct role in the rural economy of the country. New orchards are being established and existing orchards are being expanded in many parts of the country due to the increasing demand for fruits and fruit products in local markets and export potentials of some fruits.

To ensure if the soil has enough moisture, get a handful of soil from the field, hold it firmly. If water comes out, then there’s too much water in the soil. If the soil is compact and was formed into a ball, the moisture is just enough. However, if the soil crumbles, then it is too dry.

Factors to consider in choosing location

A. Soil characteristics

  • Fertility. Fertile soil gives a good start to the trees and one of the factors in having high yield of fruits.
  • Medium textures. Soil of recent alluvial origin responds to cultural practices, easy to cultivate and trees become productive.
  • Well-drained. Avoid root injury caused by stagnant water.
  • Porosity. This characteristic allows the trees to distribute its roots for moisture and nutrients.
  • Water supply. Conveniently located for spraying and watering operations.

B. Soil pH – Soil pH ranges from 5.0 to 7.5 but best yields can be obtained from soil with pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.5.

C. Climate – Areas with well-distributed rainfall throughout the year are best. Areas with distinct periods are equally suitable provided irrigation water is available.

D. Choice of variety – Choose the variety and rootstock that will best suit the site, soil, marketing possibility, resistance to pests and diseases, among others.

E. Plant Material – Asexually propagated planting materials must be acquired from accredited nursery operators.

Land Preparation

  • Thoroughly prepare the land by alternately plowing and harrowing for plain areas.
  • For hilly areas, clear the land and stump ahead before planting especially for bushy or woody orchard.

A. Spacing

The distance of planting varies on the morphological characteristics of the fruit tree, topography and fertility of the land, purpose of establishment, pruning and other management operations to be employed. Almost all orchards are planted using the square method.

Recommended spacing for different varieties:

Variety = Spacing
Calamansi = 2 – 3 m
Szinkom = 5 – 6 m
Ponkan = 6 – 7 m
Ladu = 6 – 7 m
Sweet orange = 6 – 8 m
Pummelo = 7 – 10 m
Satsuma = 4 – 6 m
Clementine = 5 – 6 m
Navels = 6 – 7 m

B. Layouting/Staking – Layout the field according to the desired distance of planting.

C. Digging & Mellowing of Holes

  • Holes should be wide enough to accommodate the root system of the plant. A desired hole is 40 cubic centimeters.
  • The holes should be exposed to rain and sunlight to about one to two weeks. This will allow the accumulation of organic fertilizer and ensure good aeration during the growing period of the plant.

D. Basal Fertilization – Apply decomposed manure or any organic matter at the rate of one kilo per tree.

E. Planting

  • The preferred time of planting is while the tree is most dormant usually in the month of May or at the offset of the dry season.
  • Balled or bare-rooted seedlings are planted in holes with a diameter and depth appropriate to the size of the root system.
  • If the seedlings are bare-rooted, inspect if broken or damaged roots exist and prune off evenly and dip in a fungicide solution to protect against Phytoptora. Fungicide solution is based on the recommended label of the fungicide or product recommendation.
  • If potted, remove the bag completely.
  • Place the tree gently in position and be sure that the potted plant should be set at about the same level as it stood in the nursery.
  • Replant immediately the missing hills to complete the hectare requirements.

Care of Young Non-Bearing Groves

The young tree produces structures for future fruit-bearing. It should be forced to produce as much vegetative growth as possible during the 2nd to 4th year. To achieve this, careful attention to irrigation, fertilization, cultivation and protection against pests and diseases must be done.

A. Irrigation

  • For the first year, water the trees at least once a week during sunny days.

B. Weed Control

  1. Weeds retard growth and increase labor costs.
  2. Ring weeding around the base of the plant at least one meter radius is best suited. This is done every 3 months.
  3. Always ringweed the base of the plant before application of fertilizer.

The nutrient requirement of the tree is based on the fertilizer requirement. Hence it is recommended that a soil analysis be conducted.

C. Fertilization

  • Fertilize newly planted trees with inorganic fertilizer usually from 4 to 6 weeks after planting.
  • The method of fertilizer application depends on the availability of labor to do the work either ring method or tripod method.
  • Liquid fertilizer can be applied depending on the choice of the farmer.
  • Split the amount of fertilizer into two equal applications before and at the offset of the rainy season.

D. Pruning

  1. For the 1st year, prune young trees to shape the tree to evenly distribute the main scaffold links around the trunk.
  2. Pruning is done to eradicate diseases, twigs, remove dead or poorly placed branches, and long, weak and undesirable branches not exposed to sunlight.

E. Cash Cropping

Young trees do not occupy fully the soil on which they are grown. For the first year, intercrop the orchard with early maturing crops to provide income while the trees are still growing. Intercropping should not be planted too close to the tree.

F. Mulching

The profitability of mulching depends on the price of available materials. However, the effects of mulching is evidenced by the growth and yield of fruit trees. Observe necessary precautions for fire hazard and rodents.

G. Control of Insect Pests & Diseases

Frequent inspection is necessary to detect the early evidence of the attack. Regular monitoring of the pest situation before attempting any chemical spray is much better than traditional calendar spray system.

H. Windbreak

The force of wind often cause the lodge and break of orchard trees hampering its fast growth. Neem tree is the best windbreaker which also serves as insect repellent.

Care and maintenance of Bearing Groves

A. Weed Control

1. Weed the field frequently to clear the young trees from being covered with wild vine shrubs and growing grasses to expose them to sunlight and air.

B. Fertilization

  • Fertilization at this stage is done to ensure regular bearing and maintain the normal vegetative growth of the trees. The amount of fertilizer needed is based on soil analysis.
  • Rate of fertilization varies according to kind, variety, and age of the trees in each stage of growth and fruit development.
  • Thorough ring weeding around the base of the plant should be made before any fertilizer application.
  • The first application is made at the start of the rainy season to enhance the vigor of the trees before its flowering stage, the second is towards the end of the rainy season.

C. Irrigation

In areas with distinct dry and wet season, and with long dry spell, irrigation is needed.

  1. Irrigation is done using either the furrow, hose, sprinkler or drip method, through the use of pumpset or gravity system.
  2. The critical period when irrigation is needed is during flushes of new growth, fruit setting and rapid increase of fruit size.
  3. Irrigation prevent water stress, cool the soil and atmosphere, soften tillage pans and facilitate better fertilization.

To ensure if the soil has enough moisture, get a handful of soil from the field, hold it firmly. If water comes out, then there’s too much water in the soil. If the soil is compact and was formed into a ball, the moisture is just enough. However, if the soil crumbles, then it is too dry.

D. Pruning

The best time to prune is after the crop is harvested. Pruning during the bearing stage consists of the removal of diseased and dead twigs, branches and leaves. Branches that are unproductive and less exposed to sunlight are also cut off.

E. Crop Protection

Drenching, painting, coating, baiting and trapping are non-spraying methods that can greatly reduce pesticide pollution. Trapping is an old technique which uses a little amount of pesticide confined inside a contraption and stays there until its potency is lost. The male insect is lured by an attractant mixed with pesticide which kills it upon contact. The male insects are annihilated thus no mating occurs resulting to the decrease in insect population and infestation is controlled.

F. Propping

During a year of heavy cropping, use props to support branches heavily laden with fruits. This practice prevents the crop from touching the ground and protects the branches from possible breakage.

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