Improved varieties spur growing of apples | Monitor – Monitor


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What you need to know:

The science of crop and livestock improvement has been going on since mankind stopped to be a hunter and collector. The objectives were varied but they included better taste, larger size, higher yields, disease resistance, drought tolerance, and better nutrition among others.

Apple is a temperate climate fruit that was introduced in Uganda specifically in Kabale District in 1999.

They have spread to the highlands in eastern Uganda mainly in Bugisu, Bukedi and Sebei sub-regions in areas around Mt Elgon.
There are also a number of farmers in Rwenzori highlands who have taken up apple growing.

They are grown in high altitude areas of between 1800m—3000m in the Mt Elgon region, highlands. Agricultural experts observe that at present, apple production is conducted by small-holder family farmers and they are commercialising it in the highlands in south-western and eastern Uganda with a few large scale farmers.
The agronomy
The aim of any farmer engaged in apple growing is to attain high yield, high quality crop that satisfies the end user. There are a large number of agronomic factors which can influence this, many are within the control of the grower, under given growing systems, climatic and soil conditions.
Soil requirements
In a publication by YARA International, a Norwegian chemical company concentrating in the production of nitrogen fertiliser for farmers detailing the agronomy practices farmers must follow when growing apple, it is stated that apple trees can grow in a wide range of soils from medium textured clays to gravelly sands.
However, poor soils will produce poor results and the best crops are found on fertile sandy and loam soils.
Wet soils lead to poor aeration and increased incidence of crown rot in apples. Generally, rooting tends to be shallow and wet soils will restrict development, resulting in poor anchorage of the tree and a reduced area of soil from which nutrients can be extracted.

Soils with high organic matter contents are normally better structured and allow good rooting.
Raising seedlings
Apples can be propagated both by seed and through grafting. However, growing apples from seed does not result in the same crop as the parent but grafts retain their properties and taste just as great as their parents.
To get good crop and fruit yield, it is recommended that farmers use grafted apple seedlings.
Apple Anna and Golden Dorset are the most performing varieties but there are many others.
Fertile and well drained soils are necessary to obtain a good crop of an apple plant. It is also important to feed your apple plant as it grows. Apples tolerate PH range of 6.0-7.0 but prefer a PH range of 6.5-6.8.
There are number of apple varieties adopted by farmers but there are most preferred varieties in Uganda and they include Wambugu apple variety which withstands the harsh conditions but still farmers don’t have to leave them without care
Farmers have to ensure that in drought prone areas, open water pools in between lines filled with manure is important including mulching and intercropping with other crops. Anna tropical variety which is purple in colour and serve dual purpose cultivars of commercial or domesticated apple that is very early ripening and does well in warm climates.
They were introduced in Uganda from Israel in 1999, first in Kabale District and now they are scattered all over the country and they are doing so well both commercially and domestically.

It produces remarkable fruits for, heavy crops of sweet, crisp, flavourful apples even in the tropical climate. It has a long shelf life and can be kept for two months in refrigerator.
Golden Dorsett is a ‘Golden Delicious’-like cultivar of domesticated apples and are early season growers with a beautiful Golden yellow-green colour and a lovely light crisp and most importantly, it needs a lower amount of cold weather to go into blooming, this makes it is possible to grow in warm climates.
A wide range of planting systems are used for apples. All aim to produce high yielding and early maturing. Ease of harvesting and management are also key factors taken into account.
Modern systems use higher densities than older established orchards. Today, normal densities range from 400-2,500 trees per acre whereas 50 years ago, 28-41 trees per acre would have been more comfortable to farmers.
In higher yielding, fertile soils and sites, growers can plant up to 4,000 trees per acre and expect 26 tons yield per acre.
This increased density has been made possible following the introduction of dwarf rootstocks which produce higher yields in the first 10 years of production than were previously possible.
Tree canopies are manipulated to produce four basic shapes of tree spherical canopies, conical canopies, flat fan shapes and V shapes.
Spacing should be between three and five metres apart to allow further growth of tree branches.
Pruning and weeding
Newly planted trees invariably need to be pruned. The exact pruning depends on the desired shape of the tree.

During full production, all trees need pruning and thinning of fruits to ensure an optimum leaf to flower as well as to allow air circulation through the tree and light penetration to improve fruit quality and size. Pruning also helps to ensure that water and nutrients are available to an optimum number of well-positioned fruits
Pest and diseases
Experts say there are more than 50 types of insects that attack apple trees, foliage, or fruit. The most serious are those insect pests that directly damage the fruit.
These include apple maggot also known as railroad worm, various types of caterpillars such as leafrollers, fruit worms and codling moth, plum curculio and rosy apple aphid.
Insects and mites such as aphids, caterpillars, scale insects, spider mites, and leafminers feed on foliage or branches, weakening trees and restricting growth and blooming of flowers to produce fruit set.
Grass or other vegetation, which competes for nutrients and moisture, should not be allowed to grow within at least 15-20 inches of the trunk of the tree.
The common diseases include; Anthracnose Canker and Bull’s-Eye Rot, Apple Scab, Armillaria Root Rot, Frogeye Leaf Spot and Black Rot, Phytophthora Crown Rot, Collar Rot, and Root Rot, Powdery Mildew, Rust and Sooty Blotch and Flyspeck
These can be managed by cutting off the affected trees or through spraying with preventable chemicals.
Apple growing has the potential to make a major contribution to poverty reduction and improved nutrition. What is needed is diversification of livelihood opportunities.

Apple commercialisation is a good option in this respect. Apples are high-value perennial fruit trees of commercial, nutritional and environmental importance if included in farming systems. It can help diversify income for farmers and improve their capacity to adapt to climatic extremes affecting the annual crops.

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