By H.M. Bilal, Dr. Rashad M. Balal, Mujahid Ali
(Department of Horticulture, College of Agriculture, UOS)
Fruit production is becoming popular in Pakistan. Progressive growers have a great opportunity to gain more profit than agronomic crops by establishing an orchard. Orchard is a long-term business and it gains more profitable when minor fruits are grown. So, to know management practices is very important. Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) belongs to the family Rosaceae and the genus is Eriobotrya. Loquat is a potentially important minor commercial fruit as well as medicinal use and other purposes. This fruit is grown in the cooler subtropical region of the world. Native to the cooler hill regions of China in south-central China. Loquat is also known as the Japanese plum and Chinese plum. In Pakistan, it is found in sub-mountainous districts of Punjab i.e. Lahore, Gujranwala, Jhelum, and Rawalpindi. And Mardan District in NWFP. Loquat varieties are not common, but a few varieties are golden yellow, Thames pride, Tanaka, and improved golden yellow. The nutritional value of loquat per 100 grams provides the energy 197 kJ (47 kcal), carbohydrates 12.14 g, fat 0.2 g, protein 0.43 g, vitamin A 10%, Vitamin B 2%, Vitamin C 1%, calcium 16mg, Iron 28mg, magnesium 23mg, phosphorous 27mg, potassium 266mg, sodium 1mg, zinc 0.05mg. Loquat fruit arrives in the market when citrus fruit is finished, and mango is yet to ripen. Although filled with large seeds constitute 2/3 fruit, they bring a good income because of the timing of ripening and marketing.
Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, with a rounded crown, short trunk, and woolly new twigs. Loquat tree can grow to 5.5-9 meters. But it is often smaller, about 4-5 meters. The Loquat fruit ripens during spring to summer it depends upon the climate and temperature of the area. The leaves are long 4-10 inches, dark green in color, Leathery texture, and the Loquat leaves are alternate and with a serrated margin. In the loquat tree, flowers are white in color and small in size with sweetly fragrant. The simple flower buds bloom into branched panicles at the end of the new shoots during November – December. The loquat flower has 5 sepals, 5 petals, 5 carpel each with 2 ovules, and 20 stamens. The Loquat fruit color is pale-yellow. And each loquat fruit contains one to ten ovules, with three to five being most common. When the variable number of ovules are mature, it converts into large brown seeds. In fruit 2-3 seeds are present and seed size is 4-5 cm. The loquat fruit is the sweetest in taste when it will soften and pale- yellow in color. Its flavor is like a mixture of peach, citrus, and mild mango.
Loquat tree performs well in the mild climate of sub-tropical regions where the average rainfall is 50-100 mm. Where the climate and temperature are to cool and excessively warm and moist the loquat tree is grown as an ornamental, but it will not bear the fruit. Early-onset of hot summer winds causes sunburn and poor development of the fruit and faulty ripening of the fruit. Its tree requires bright sunshine and a mild environment for the proper development of size and sweetness and flavor. The well establishes tree can tolerate the low temperature at 12F. The killing temperature for the flower bud is about 19F and for the mature flower about 26F. At 25F, the seed is killed. The tree is fairly tolerant to drought and forest, but hot desiccating winds can easily kill the stem.
The loquat tree is successfully grown on a wide range of soil from light sandy loam to heavy soil. For loquat tree, the ideal soil is a well-drained light loam. For the loquat tree, the Sub-soil containing gravel and a high percentage of calcium is unfit for loquat production. Ample water supply and effective drainage are important for the commercial cultivation of the loquat fruit. Loquat trees are drought tolerant, but it will produce a higher quality of fruits when we apply the regular and deep watering. The trees should be watered at the time of swelling of blooms. About 2-3 watering should be given during harvesting time. The loquat tree will not tolerate standing water.
Loquat tree is propagated by both methods sexual and A-sexual. Loquat is commonly propagated through seed. Although the seedling takes a long time to bear and is not true to type fruits are produce. The seedling is planted during the fruit ripening period. Generally, seeds are used for propagation only when the tree is grown for ornamental purpose or also use as a rootstock. After removal of fruit, the seed is washed and planted in the pots and flats. Then transplanted when its height is 6-7 inches. When the stem is 1/2-inch-thick at the base the seedlings are ready to be top-worked. Loquat tree can be propagating by various techniques. Propagation may also be by cutting, layering, budding, and grafting. Propagation by cutting is difficult, and the success ratio is quite low, while layering is easy and satisfactory. Shield budding using loquat or quince seedling as rootstock is preferred, as easier and the success ratio is higher. In loquat A-sexual propagation is carried out during Feb-March and July-Aug.
Loquat tree orchards are planted in the square system during Feb- March, and Sep-Oct. Planting distance is 5-8 m depending upon the rootstock. For a good crop, loquat tree requires copious irrigation, but they cannot tolerate standing water. Trees may do well with even a little water, except during the fruiting season when enough moisture is required for good fruit. As with other evergreen fruits, is restricted to the removal of dead, diseased, or otherwise unwanted wood. And also Thinning of fruit may be practiced on heavily bearing trees to get large sized fruits. Manuring and fertilizers are important for commercial loquat orchards. To get a good crop, 50 kg of well-rooted FYM mixed with 2kg of bone meal and 5kg of wood ash should be added to each bearing tree every year. Green manure can also be plowed in during the rainy season. And also chemical fertilizer N:P:K ratio of 750:300:750 grams/plant should be applied.
Loquat tree starts bearing fruits 3rd year of the plantation and gives maximum yield. The loquat fruits usually take two months after the fruit set. Choose loquats with smooth, firm, unbroken skin free of bruises and blemishes. Some loquats may have a brown, freckled surface. Store the loquats fruit in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. The average yield is obtained from loquat is 15-20 kg/tree. Yield is depending upon soil, climate, temperature, environment, and cultural practices. soothes the respiratory system
The loquat fruit and leaves include pectin, iron, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber, which make it very effective for boosting overall human health. And, some other medical uses lower blood pressure, lowers cancer risk, prevents diabetes, controls cholesterol levels, strengthens bones, soothes respiratory system, boosts immunity, Aids in digestion, Regulates circulatory system.
The insect pest of loquat is the bark eating caterpillar. Bark eating caterpillars cause huge damage to loquat trees. Caterpillars feed on the bark and make tunnels in the trunk. Due to tunneling, girdling is caused, which may kill the plant. And also the Fruit fly is the insect pest of loquat. At fruit maturity, fruits are attacked by fruit fly. On hatching, maggots bore into the fruits and feed on the pulp. The infested fruits become unfit for human consumption. And reduce the yield and economic value.
The disease of loquat is the shoot/fruit blight and bark canker. The canker appears on bud scars, twigs or in crotches. Small circular brown spots appear around a leaf scar or superficial wound. As the canker enlarges the centers become sunken with the surrounding healthy bark. The fungus perpetuates itself on the trees in bark cankers. And another disease is Collar Rot. It is caused by Phytophthora species. Some are of the view that it is caused by Diplodia natalensis. The fungus produces canker from ground level to the growers have a great opportunity to gainpoint from where scaffolds emerge. The rot girdles the trunk for 2-3 years. Affected trees flower profusely. The foliage becomes yellowish green. The tree shows wilting and ultimately dry up completely. And also the root rot/white rot is the disease of loquat. It is caused by a fungus polyporus palustrisis. The affected trees show symptoms of wilt during early leaf fall and increased fruit set. The fruiting bodies appear when the rot is well advanced. By following these recommended practices, we can get a good and profitable yield.