Mkulima today most apples consumed in the sub-Saharan region are mainly imported from South Africa. With the challenges affecting the supply chain as a result of covid -19. it is time to consider your own production. In this article, we cover the guide on how to farm apples.
Several farming stories have been recorded in the neighboring countries of Kenya and Uganda.
With more farmers getting into apple farming we can greatly reduce the importation of apples and reduce the apple prices in the market.
How to farm apples
Being predominantly a temperate fruit requiring very low temperatures, the apple fruit
has for a long time been considered exotic.
Apples are planted in holes 60cm wide and 60cm deep spaced at three by three meters
for better growth.
Commercial growing of apples, a major crop in temperate countries, is slowly taking
shape as improved varieties is unveiled.
In Uganda, apples were introduced in 1999 by the National Agricultural Organisation
(Naro) in the western highlands of Kabale with the purpose of identifying adaptable apple
While in Kenya apples have been grown since the early 80s with the trials starting to show great success the past decade.
Research organizations like NARO in Uganda and KALRO in Kenya are keen to change the fortunes of the fruit through the introduction of grafted varieties that can do well in other regions. While supporting farmers on how to farm apples.
Apples attract a handsome price in Uganda it costs about Ugshs 500 while in Kenya Kshs 20 – 25 each. This is because the fruit is largely imported from South Africa and Israel.
Demand has continued to significantly grow as people learn more about their health benefits.
This is greatly affected by the changing lifestyle of the ever-growing middle class in the East African region of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda.
With the growing demand for healthier and organic products a guide on how to farm apples is key for developing our own quality products locally.
Limited local production, coupled with inferior quality of the existing varieties and lack of
awareness among farmers on the potential of apple farming have led consumers to
continue relying on expensive imported fruits.
The new varieties are high-yielders and produce quality fruits in terms of size, color and
taste, thus, are able to compete effectively with imported fruits.
Apples are planted in holes 60cm wide and 60cm deep spaced at three by three meters. This will help provider better growth for the plants.
In each hole, mix 30 kilograms of fully decomposed manure with the topsoil and about 125g of single super phosphate fertilizer.
Top-dressing is done six months after planting with 150g of CAN fertilizer to boost growth.
It is necessary to avoid shading the young tree. However, low-growing crops such as legumes can be planted in between apple plants.
You should ensure formative pruning is done in the first two to three years to establish the tree
The young unbranched nursery seedling is nipped at about one meter from the ground to stimulate side branching below the head.
From the emerging branches, you should select three to four strong branches distributed evenly along and around the central leader and at least 15cm apart along the trunk.
The selected branches are tipped off towards the end of the growing season or during
the dormant period to stimulate secondary branching.
Secondary branches will ensure more production for fruits during the subsequent harvesting periods.
Breaking of dormancy
This is very important for apples since they go into dormancy in July and August. You are advised to remove all leaves immediately after the cold season to break the lateral bud dormancy and to increase blossoming.
Application of a growth regulator known as Dormex aids in dormancy breaking and ensuring uniform flowering.
Ensure about two to three evenly spaced fruit per spur to avoid malformation due to
crowding of heavy fruit set.
Thinning also ensures the production of large fruits of uniform colour and quality.
Harvesting and storage
The fruit should be handled carefully to avoid bruising them.
A small stalk is retained attached to the fruit for ease of handling. Apples should be stored in a cool, dry, and ratproof place.
The fruits can be stored from four to eight months and much longer if in a refrigerated store.
How to farm apples diseases and pests
Just like other living organisms, apples are not immune to pests and diseases. We cover some of the common diseases and pests that affect apples and could lead to huge losses.
This is a fungal disease that attacks leaves and fruits.
Symptoms include blackening and necrosis of the leaf margin, which appear as dark irregularly shaped spots scattered on the fruit surface.
This can be controlled by the use of copper-based fungicides.
This attacks the new shoots, leaves, and buds and can be controlled by the application of sulfur-based fungicide at 10 days intervals beginning at the pink bud stage.
This disease attack leaves and stems and can be controlled by copper-based fungicides.
This is a small fly with silvery wings. It attacks the fruits as they approach maturity by puncturing and laying eggs inside when the fruit is ripening leading to rotting. The white maggots burrow further into the fruit, feeding on the rotting pulp.
Attacked fruits rot and drop prematurely. One way of controlling fruit flies is through field sanitation
by burying the affected fruits in a hole at least 1m deep or putting the fruits in a drum of
water to suffocate them.
Other ways include the use of pheromone traps, attractants such as molasses or sugar mixed with an insecticide.
Red spider mites:
These are minute insects found crawling mainly on the underside of a leaf. They suck plant sap and may cause leaves to wither and die.
Damage to the fruit is caused by the larvae. Upon hatching, they form tunnels, particularly in the core area. Young damaged fruit to drop off the tree or become malformed. Fruit at different stages may be attacked by several generations of moth. This can be controlled by ensuring field sanitation through collecting affected fruits and burying them.
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