By Hamza Sardar, Mujahid Ali, Dr. Rashad M. Balal
Horticulture, College of Agriculture, UOS
Peache is believed to be the “Queen” of fruits and have very next position in popularity after apples. Our main fruits are Citrus, Mango, Banana, Apple, Guava, Date Palm, Apricot, Grapes, Peach, and Papaya. Peach is our most important fruit crop and a rich source of vitamin A and C.
The Peach Prunus persica belongs to family Rosaceae and is deciduous in nature. Its scientific name Prunus persica refers to Persia from where it came to Europe. However, peaches were originated from China where they have been cultivated since 2000BC. Peach was first appeared in India 1700BC, during the Harappan period. Spanish explorers introduced peach firstly in America during the 16th century, but they were grown in England by the 17th century. Until 20th-century peaches were costly and rare.
Fresh peach has a great nutritional value contains potassium and fiber. The fruit has over 80% water and 1 averaged size peach has 7% of dietary fiber which is required each day. The benefits of peach for health include relief from hypokalemia, eye health, anti-cancer, obesity, remove dead cells, cholesterol, eye health, and weight loss. It also helps in maintaining skin care, nervous system, healthy bones, and teeth. It has anti-aging properties and also helps in detoxification as well as improving the digestion and cellular health. It helps in strengthening the immune system.
In Pakistan peach is cultivated in KPK as a traditional crop over 6,330 hectares with annual production 36,155 tones. Peach is also cultivated in Balochistan over 7,655 hectares with annual production 19,852 tones and Pothwar region of Punjab. The cities of Pakistan where peach is cultivated are Peshawar, Parachinar, Chitral, Hazara, Quetta, Pashin, Ziarat, Mastung, Skardu, Hunza and Murree hills. Worldwide China is leading the peach-producing country with about 54% share of total world production and also grown in countries like Spain, Italy, USA, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Chile, France, and Argentina.
Prunus persica is a medium sized fast-growing tree grows to 4-10m tall and 6m in diameter. It has round or vase shape with irregular canopy. Broad lanceolate shaped leaves are 7-16cm long and pinnately veined. The plant has perfect flowers with pink color appear in early spring. Flowers are solitary or paired 2.5-3cm in diameter contains five petals. Peach has a delicious drupe type fruit with yellow or whitish flesh and delicate aroma along with a skin that is velvety or smooth (nectarines). The flesh of a fruit is very delicate and easily bruised. The fruit has a single large seed which is red-brown in color, oval in shape and around 1.3-2cm long bounded by a wood-like husk.
The soil of peach ranges depending on rootstock used. Usually, rich well-drained loamy soils with deep subsoil are most suitable. The peach tree is sensitive to wet conditions and salt. Peaches have chilling requirements ranging from 200 to more than 1000 hours below 5⁰c. Peach orchards should be planted at 600-1500m elevation; 80.6-86F temperature is required for good quality and yield.
In the Murree Hills, at lower heights orchards are kept clean during the dry period (April-June), while weeds and grass are allowed to grow during the rainy season (July-August) to conserve soil moisture. In Peshawar, the non-bearing orchards are intercropped with vegetables and berseem, while bearing orchards are kept clean. The peach tree requires regular watering to obtain optimum yield, especially during fruit maturity stages. Short supply of water in growing season will result in reduced fruit size. Early yellowing and falling of leaves are caused by excessive irrigation. An average sized peach tree is supplied with 60-80kg FYM. Peaches respond well to N and K under most conditions and have higher requirements for these two elements. Half pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer is requiring for 2 months plant. 3-4 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer is requiring for 2-3 year plant. The mature peach tree requires 1-2 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer.
Pruning is essential for tree health, fruit production, and strong framework development. Pruning should be done according to open center or modified center leader system. Immediately after planting, the tree should be pruned back to a height of 26-30 inches. During second and third year diseased, low-hanging and broken limbs are removed.
Peach can be propagated sexually and asexually. The sexual method is done by opening the woody exterior of the peach seed using the hammer. Inside will be an almond-like pit. Remove the pit and discard the woody exterior. Wrap the peach seed pits in a damp paper towel and place them in the plastic bag. Refrigerate the pits in the back of your refrigerator for about three months this is called stratifying the seed. Check the seeds and once they have started sprouting, carefully remove them from the refrigerator and the plastic bag. Whereas asexual method of propagation is through ring and shield budding, which are done during summer and Cleft-grafting is done during late winter. Asexually produced plants are planted during early spring before sprouting.
Harvesting takes 11 weeks for maturity and harvests the peach fruit when it is fully ripe. Ripe peaches have deep yellow or creamy white color but color varies according to cultivars. The fruit found on the top and side of the tree usually ripen first. Be careful when picking because some varieties bruise very easily. Peaches cannot be consumed immediately so they should be stored in home refrigerators at 32⁰F and high humidity.
Varieties of peach are Cling and freestone that is produced worldwide. In KPK Early grand, Florida king 6-A and 8-A, Jubilee, Golden, Robin, and Wiggin. In Balochistan, the varieties which are grown are Golden early, Shah Pasand and Shireen. In Punjab some low chill and early maturing cultivars.
The insect pests of peach are borer, Mites, White Peach scale, Leafhoppers, Lesser Peach tree Borer, Sucking Bugs and Fruit Moth. Whereas the diseases of peach are Brown Rot, Peach Scab, Bacterial Spot, Peach Leaf Curl, Gummosis, Powdery Mildew, Crown Rot, Peach Tree Short Life and Crown Gall.
Peach has some uses it is used widely in making of salad, used in making juice, used in jellies, used in illness or fever, used in canning and also used as table fruit.
To conclude peach has a great nutritional importance to eat as explained above and it also has a great economic importance for our country we can earn a lot if we grow peach because it has high production rate and thus we will improve our agriculture sector and serve Pakistan in a better way.