Peach fruit farming, how Ugandan farmers can get it right
Peach is a temperate fruit tree that belongs to the family of Rosaceae, same as the apple. Peaches have not penetrated the Ugandan market that well; the fruit is spotted in few high-end marketplaces. However, there are few farmers who cultivate peaches on a small scale and do sell their produce to roadside vendors.
James Goloba from Kabale District is one of them. He shares insights on what it takes to plant peaches. Goloba was among the many farmers that attended the just concluded Seeds of Gold Farm Clinic held at Kachwekano Zardi.
Soil preparation on peach farming
Peaches should be planted in well-worked soil having an adequate supply of nutrients and with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. A soil test prior to planting is a good investment. Deficiencies should be taken care of before planting.
The site should be exposed to enough sunlight. Varieties propagated in Uganda include; Red Haven, Alexander, jewel, waldo, and killiecrankie among others. “While there are many new and excellent varieties available to choose from, I recommend `Red Haven’. It is the most popular, and one of the most reliable varieties grown in the world,” says Goloba.
Plant trees so that the largest root is pointing toward the prevailing winds and tilt the tree slightly in that direction. Soil enhancements such as compost, composted manure or top soil may be added judiciously. “Healthy, disease-free and vigorous seedlings ought to be planted. A spacing of five by six metres is ideal from one tree to the other. Ensure the planting holes are large enough to accommodate the root system. Inter-crops such as beans and peas can be grown in between the peach trees during the initial stages,” says Goloba.
He says chemical fertilisers should not be put in the planting hole since research has shown that it is not beneficial when added then since it retards root development.
Controlling weeds on a peach farm
Goloba says that weed control is an important task in peach cultivation. Irrigation and fertilisation cannot control the harmful effects of severe weed competition. It is especially true with first- and second-year trees.
“Historically, weeds were controlled by hand digging and this method still is not recommended because of irreversible damage to the topsoil from erosion and through the garden in wet weather,” he says. He adds that most plantations’ most effective floor management system consists of ragged, native turf with a weed-free strip under the trees. Weeds in the strip are controlled chemically. “Gradually increase the weed-free strip from three to four feet in a first-year garden to 10 to 12 feet in a mature garden,” he says.
Pruning peach tree
Pruning increases growth and flower bud formation for the following year. Pruning also helps reduce crop load, improve fruit size and reduce limb breakage and tree damage due to excessive crop load.
Mulching and watering peach trees
Goloba recommends applying some type of mulch, such as hay or straw early in the season.
This should be renewed each year. After a few months, the mulch should be pulled back from the tree to prevent the build-up of mice and to hasten hardening off.
Pest and disease control on peaches
A wide variety of pests and diseases attack peach trees. They include; aphids, moth, fruit flies, nematodes, scab, mildew, leaf curl, rust and root rot. Peaches start fruiting in the third or fourth year. Thinning is necessary to control the number of fruits and for the production of quality peach fruits. “A farmer would rather have fewer quality well-sized fruits than have many poorly developed fruits.
Peach fruit requires three to five months to reach harvest from the time flowers are pollinated.
Market for peaches
Goloba says there is a local and international market for fruits that have been growing steadily over the years.
He asks the large chunk of the unemployed youths in Kigezi region to consider venturing in both apple and peach farming.
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