Matomoko (Custard apple) farming in Kenya
Custard apple is a subtropical deciduous woody shrub that has branches that spread irregularly and can reach 8 metres high under favorable conditions. The fruit is lumpy skinned with a soft sweet pulp that is rich in carbohydrates, vitamin A and C. The fruit can be consumed when ripe or used in ice creams or desserts. Compared to soursop, custard apple is more common in Kenya and is locally called matomoko. Custard apple has still not gained much popularity but there is possibility to expand its use and importance. Custard apple is spotted in most major markets in Nairobi. Most farmers have less than 10 trees and single trees have been spotted in some homesteads.
The fruit tolerates a variety of conditions and perform well in most parts of the country. Ecologically, its best suited in warm and fairly moist environments. It performs well in tropical climates accompanied with cool winters. Even though custard apples prefer humid climates it is possible to cultivate it in semi-arid areas. The plant starts flowering in the third or fourth year depending on environmental conditions and occurs once a year. For proper fruit size and shape your garden should have a good population of insect pollinators and where they are none hand pollination will be necessary. The fruit is green when unripe and turns yellow or orange when ripe. The tree is sensitive to wind which can break branches and affect pollination.
Custard apple prefers well aerated and well-drained soil rich in organic matter but is well adapted to unfavorable soil conditions. It can tolerate a soil ph of between 5.0 and 8.0. They can be propagated from seed collected from selected mother plants or vegetatively through cuttings, layering, grafting or budding. Plant your seedlings at the beginning of the rainy season for proper establishment of plants. It is proper to support the plants to avoid wind damage. Apply bio gradable mulch to contain soil moisture. Upon establishment pruning and training is desirable to regulate the tree canopy and ensure quality fruit production. Fertilization will vary and should be done after determining the soil nutrient level.
Custard apple is susceptible to various pest and diseases, the most common pests being the trunk borer, fruit borer and seed borer. As usual when it comes to pest and diseases, prevention is better than cure. Select disease free planting materials and develop the capacity to monitor the plants for any outbreaks. Put in place an integrated control system that involves biological, cultural and chemical methods to deter pests and diseases. Use chemicals as a last resort. Consult your extension officer for professional advice in case of any attacks.
Fruit should be harvested at the right time, all the fruits in a single tree might not be ready for harvest at the same time, so great care should be taken when selecting the fruits to harvest. Fruits will not ripen adequately when harvested at the immature stage. The fruits are highly perishable and have a short post-harvest time hence the need for proper storage. The rains are here, making this the right time to plant a few custard apples trees. Happy planting season and ensure you plant a fruit tree
By: Plant A Fruit
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