Usama Shahid, Mujahid Ali, Dr. Rashid Mukhtar Balal
Horticulture, College of Agriculture, UOS
Fruits are beneficial for our health as they contain different vitamins and nutrients. Different fruits have different kinds of nutrients that keep us healthy. The major fruits of our country are mango, apple, banana, citrus, apricot, grapes, papaya, and peach. Apricot is our 6th mostly cultivated fruit crop and in 2014, Pakistan was the 7th biggest producer of apricot in the world. It’s an excellent source of vitamin A and C.
Apricot Prunus armenica belongs to family Rosaceae. It is deciduous in nature. The origin of apricot is disputed and unsettled, so it is often thought that Armenia is its origin because it has been cultivated there for long period during the ancient time. Apricot has been cultivated for over 4,000 years in China and it is also considered as its origin. In the 17th century, apricot was brought to America. In Indo-Pakistan, apricots were probably introduced from Iran and Afghanistan.
Fresh apricot has a great nutritional value. It contains 38% of vitamin A, 16% of vitamin C, 2% of iron, 5% of vitamin B-6, and 2% of Magnesium. Apricot contains dietary fiber which helps to control blood cholesterol level. It also helps in protection of our eyesight and protection against inflammation.
In Pakistan, apricot is mostly grown in the northern areas of Parachinar, Hangu, Chitral, Swat, Hazara and the uplands of Balochistan province, Potohar and Murree Hills in Punjab. But districts of Gilgit, Diamer, Ghizer, Ghanche, and Skardu in northern areas are considered best for the apricot production because these areas have high mountains and large glaciers that are suitable for apricot cultivation. Worldwide, apricot is grown in Turkey, Iran, Italy, Pakistan, France, Algeria, Japan, and Morocco.
Apricot trees are small and spreading 8-12m in height, with broadly ovate leaves 5-9 cm long that have pointed tips. The leaves are bright green and are held erect on the twigs. Its flowers are self-pollinated, white in full bloom and borne singly or double at a node on very short stems and are 2-4.5 cm in diameter. Apricot is a small, golden orange fruit with smooth skin. Its flesh is not too juicy but definitely sweet. Its flavor is almost musky with a faint sourness that is more prominent when the fruit is dried. Apricot is mostly propagated by cuttings, grafting, and budding. It can also be propagated by seeds.
Apricot trees prefer sandy loam soil but any well-drained soil without heavy clay or rock is acceptable. Light-colored soils are preferred as they promote earlier fruit maturity. The soil of pH 5.5-6.5 is preferred. It is drought tolerant because it can survive in low humidity. But it is badly affected by the low soil moisture. Chilling requirement is about 700 – 1000 hours at less than or equal to 45 F for regular flowering.
Apricot is planted during December end-mid March. Pits are dug a month before planting and 1 kg single super phosphate and 10 ml chloropyriphos solution is added to each pit. Square and triangular layout systems are followed. Plant to plant distance should be kept 6m.
The apricot tree absorbs a large number of nutrients from the soil so the soil requires refill with both organic manures and chemical fertilizers. For mature trees, a mixture of 40 kg farmyard manure, 500 g Nitrogen, 250 g P2O5 and 200 g of potassium is suggested. The farmyard manure must be applied during December to January. In apricot orchards application of Diuron or Atrazine (4 kg/ha) as pre-emergence and Gramaxone or Glyphosate as post-emergence is useful to control weed growth.
Apricot is trained to open vase and modified center leader system. Pruning is to be done in the first dormant season because the framework developed in this period gives the tree its shape. After giving the tree its shape the thinning of overcrowded branches is done. It is done in such a way that sunlight may reach every branch of the tree. In young bearing trees pruning should be light but in old trees, heavy pruning should be done to uphold balance between growth and fruiting. As fruit set in apricot is heavy so it results in fruit drop and undersized fruits, therefore, thinning should be done to overcome these problems. Fruit thinning should be done within 40 days after bloom.
Apricot is a fruit of dry atmosphere. It requires less irrigation only during critical periods of fruit growth and development. More water is required in fruit development period from April end to mid-June. Irrigation should be done at 10 days intervals in May and 6-8 days in June.
Varieties of apricot that are grown in Punjab are Muzehki, Afghani, Mehtri, Qazafi, Mirza Bibi, GLC-08, KCC-01, LBC-01, and Maikan. In Gilgit varieties grown are PNG-01, NHG-01, NHG-02, NHG-03 and Sufaid Khubani.
The main pests which attack apricot are mites and nematodes. Among the several insects, the peach twig borer and the Oriental fruit moth are the most harmful. Harsh harm can be caused by the winter moth, the flat-headed borer, the mealy plum aphid and other species. The most common diseases of Apricot are Bacterial Canker, Eutypa Dieback, Phytophthora, Ripe Fruit Rot and shot Hole Disease.
Harvesting of apricot is done when the fruit is completely ripened on the tree. The ripening period is different for different varieties. The fruit is fully ripened when its color is changed from green to yellowish-orange and becomes slightly soft. After harvesting the resulting Apricot is held in a cool location for 1-3 weeks and free from other damaging factors. Its temperature must be 31-32 oF with a relative humidity of 90-91%. It should not be stored with any other fruit which can be a source of ethylene, which can cause early ripening of fruit and decay-causing fungus. To avoid browning of apricot it must be placed in a solution of 3 gram of ascorbic acid to 1 gallon of cold water.
To conclude, apricot has a great importance as it has been explained in the article. It can give us benefits in many aspects. By growing apricot, we can provide a great strength to the agriculture sector and our country. As apricot is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C, we should make it a part of our diet and should use it the whole year in fresh and dry form.