POPULARISING KIWIFRUIT CULTIVATION IN NORTH EAST

 

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A. Singh, R.K. Patel and M.R. Verma

Division of Horticulture,

ICAR Research Complex for NEH Region, Umiam-793103, Meghalaya

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Kiwifruit or Chinese gooseberry (Actinidia deliciosa) is known as ‘China’s miracle fruit, and ‘the horticultural wonder of New Zealand’. From China it is spread to New Zealand where it was recognized as a potential fruit and became a popular backyard vine. In India, the area under this fruit is negligible being a new exotic introduction. With extensive research and development support, its commercial cultivation in India has been extended to the mid hills of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir. In North East, it is being cultivated in Arunachal Pradesh in some sizable area but other states like Sikkim, Meghalaya, and hills of Manipur have vast potential for successful cultivation of kiwifruits. They are highly convinced about the potential and importance of this fruit crop to become commercial in the North Eastern states. Kiwifruit has gained popularity in the past two decades in many countries of the World. In fact no other fruit has gained so much popularity in such a short period in the history of commercial production (Chandel and Rana, 2002). No doubt, in future this will prove to be another important fruit for foothills and mid hills of north east, parallel to mandarin and pineapple in foot hills or low hills.

A ripe kiwifruit is refreshing, delicate flavour with pleasing aroma and high nutritive value. It is mostly eaten as fresh fruit or combined with other fruits in salad and desserts. The nutritive value and flavor are retained when the fruit is processed to Jam, Jelly or preserves. The fruit is rich in vitamin C and contains an enzyme that tenderises meat, thus it can be rubbed into steaks before boiling.

 

Adaptations

The plants need a long growing season (at least 240 frost-free days), which will not be hampered by late winter, or early autumn freezes. For high yield and quality fruits it requires 700-800 chilling hrs below 70c to break its dormancy period. High temperature (>350c) accompanied by high insulation, low humidity, sunscald and heat stress are the main problem in its cultivation.

Kiwifruit prefer somewhat acid (pH 5 - 6.5), well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter. The plants do not tolerate salty soils.

 

Important Cultivars

At present seven cultivars of kiwi namely Allison, Monty, Hayward, Abbott, Bruno (Female) and Tomuri and Matua (Male) have been introduced in India. Though morpho-agronomically these cultivars show little variations but the cultivar Hayward requires more number of days to fruit ripening than other remaining cultivars where as cultivar Allison requires least number of days. Bruno fruits are of bigger in size and contain high amount of Ascorbic acid. Allison and Bruno are early cultivars and Hayward is the late one and Abbott and Monty are mid season ones.

 

 


Physico-chemical properties of kiwifruits cultivars under mid hills of Meghalaya

Cultivars

Fruit wt (g)

Fruit length (mm)

Fruit dia. (mm)

TSS (%)

Acidity (%)

Vit. C (mg/100 g)

Reducing sugar (%)

Non-reducing sugar (%)

Total sugar (%)

Allison

59.63

58.24

42.90

13.80

1.50

103.50

5.79

10.72

16.51

Abott

61.99

58.79

40.58

13.88

1.37

100.79

3.94

7.29

11.23

Monty

51.23

52.14

40.08

11.27

1.58

98.80

7.29

6.60

13.89

Bruno

44.40

49.74

37.57

12.47

1.94

111.73

4.58

5.21

9.79

Source: Patel et al. (2005)

 

Propagation

Most rapid and suitable method of multiplication is cutting either hard wood, semi hard wood or soft wood. One year old matured and dormant shoots of the preceding summer growth are selected. Dormant cuttings having 2-3 nodes in length are prepared in the month of December-January. The base of the cuttings are wounded and treated with 4000-5000 ppm IBA for 15-20 second. The cuttings are set in moist coarse texture media provided 2 nodes below and 1 or 2 nodes above the media. This is very low cost and easy technique. This technique does not require mist and glass house facility.

 

Planting and after care

 

Planting distance varies according to system of training. In T-bar a spacing of 4m from row to row and 5-6 m from plant to plant, whereas, in pergola, a spacing of 6m from row to row and 4-6 m from plant to plant should be maintained. January is ideal time for planting of kiwifruit.

standard t-bar trellisTraining of kiwi vine is very important, requiring constant attention. The main aim of training is to establish and maintain a well-formed framework of main branches and fruiting arms. Kiwi fruits can be trained with the help of supporting wires to form a roof like structure which is known as pergola to protect the fruit from sun scald and bird damage. A simple T-bar trellis with 3-5 wires can also be adopted.

 

 
 

The basal three to five buds of a current growth are only productive. The vines grow 4-5m each year, which will become over crowded if not pruned in summer and winter season. Therefore, the pruning is done to maintain a balance between vine growth and optimum profitable fruit production. In summer, keep the vines open and avoid crowding and shading of wood. Suppress the unwanted new lateral canes and maintain control on spur growth,

 

along the permanent fruiting arms. Girdling of young kiwi vines enhances their yield in the following year. A 3-4 mm wide strip is removed around the lateral at a height of about 1.0-1.5m.

For full grown vines planted at 6 x 6 m, application of 750-800 g N, 500-600g P, 800-900g K and 20kg FYM in two dressing, half to two third in January- February and remaining after fruit set in April-May is recommended. Reduce the dose to half for plants planted at 6 x 3 m distance.

Flowering and pollination

The flowering period extends over several weeks from early May to June, depending on climatic conditions. Kiwi is dioecious plant (means male and female flower are born on different plant) thus needing plants of both sexes to produce fruit. A staminate plant is provided for the pollination of every six-pistilate plants. Every third plant in alternate row should be a pollinizer (staminate).  In India only two male clones Tomuri and Allision are generally inter planted. Kiwi plants are pollinated mainly by honeybees besides hand pollination in early morning hours are very effective for heavy fruit setting and quality yield (Pandey and Sharma, 2000)

 

Crop and quality regulation

            All the cultivars of kiwifruit except Hayward bear heavily every year. This heavy crop creates a severe competition between the fruit for water, nutrient and photosynthates, which leads to production of small sized fruits. Therefore, to harvest quality crop of good size, hand thinning is essential, as chemical thinning is ineffective. Flower or fruit thinning (20%) to the extent of retaining 5 to 6 fruits/flowering shoot produced more fruits of A grade without any adverse effect on total yield. In hand thinning, only lateral flowers or fruits are removed (Thakur, 2000).

 

Harvesting and yield

Bearing starts at the age of 4-5 years. Yields vary from 25-100 kg /vine. It ripens from October to December depending upon variety and climate. In Barapani condition it ripens in late November. The berries are harvested when they are still hard and can be transported to long distance without using sophisticated packaging materials. The fruits can be stored for about one month at room temperature and for four months in the cold storage. To make the fruit attractive, their surface hairs may be rubbed. 

 

Pests and diseases

            Pests and diseases do not cause much economical loss to kiwifruit. The cloudy, humid weather during flowering prevents petal fall, which remains adhered to the fruit, get infected with botrytis and subsequently infects the fruit. Polyphagus pests may damage the crop to a limited extent viz. leaf roller, passion vine hopper and two spotted mite. Application of any systemic insecticide from bud burst to pea stage at 15-20 days intervals can reduce the loss. Major disease, which may cause damage are root rot or collar rot or crown rot. Soil drenching with Bordeaux mixture (1.0%) or copper oxychloride (0.25%) or systemic fungicide, Ridomil can be used to control the disease.  

 

Prospects of Kiwifruit production

The kiwi fruit plantations are unique in many ways and have advantages over other fruit crops cultivation. There are several attributes that make the kiwifruit cultivation as viable and productive in mid and foot hills of the North Eastern part of the country. Chandel and Rana (2002), reported that its cultivation in the country is of recent origin and total production and productivity is very low, yet there is tremendous scope for its cultivation because of :

Wider Adaptability

North Eastern State has diverse agro climatic conditions from foothill, mid hill, higher hill of sub-tropical humid to dry regions. The kiwifruit grow well from 300-2000m above mean sea level wherever the climate is warm and humid. Thus the kiwifruit cultivation can successfully be adapted in all the North Eastern states including Assam. The plant will grow satisfactorily under moderate to high rainfall conditions. Kiwifruit requires 700-800 chilling hours below 7 0C. The summer temperature should not go beyond 35°C.

 

Precocious in Bearing with High Returns

Kiwifruit starts bearing at an early age from 3-5 years after planting. Economic fruit bearing starts at an age of 5-7 years. A well-managed plant can give an average yield of 30-60 kg fruits per plant. The market price is always high for kiwi fruit in the region. There is no crop failure in this fruit except from hailstorms. The damage can be avoided by providing nylon netting at the time of flower bud initiation.

Easy Propagation

Most rapid and suitable method of multiplication is cuttings either hard wood or semi hard wood.  One year old matured and dormant shoots of the preceding summer growth obtained by pruning are taken for making cutting. Cuttings having treatment of IBA @ 4000-5000 ppm show good result. This technique does not require mist and glass house facility.

No Serious Pests and Diseases

So far, no serious pest and diseases attack has been reported in this fruit from India. Therefore, it has got a better scope to become commercial eco-friendly fruit crop in foot and mid hills of the region.

Marketing

Kiwifruit generally ripens from October to December, which is the lean period for other fruits in the market, so the price for kiwi fruit is always high. Hard fruit of kiwi can be transported from one corner to another corner of country without using the sophisticated packing and transport means. The fruit starts ripening from 12-15 days after picking from vines. The fruits can be stored for about one month at room temperature and 4-5 months in the cold storage at 10 0C which makes it possible to supply for extended period to the market without creating a glut and fetch good price in the market.

High Nutritive and Medicinal Value

More than ninety per cent of the fruit is composed of the edible portion and infact, except skin, whole fruit along with seed is edible. Almost all the ingredients are available in kiwi fruit compared to other existing fruit crops available. It has more fibre than most breakfast cereals (even bran flakes) i.e. more than banana, papaya or orange. It is a rich source of sugars and several minerals such as phosphorus, potassium and calcium. It is a rich source of vitamin ‘C’ and ‘E’ and low in calories. The fruit is widely known for its high ascorbic acid content.

Multiple Use

Fruits can be eaten fresh or processed in to many kind of products like jam, squash, juice and wine. Seeds are used for making pastries, fragrant flower in producing perfume and roots processed in to effective insecticides against aphid and rice borer.