Loquat Farming In Kenya: The Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), a relative of pear, apple, and peach is an attractive evergreen with large, pleated leaves and fragrant fall flowers. The loquat originated in Canton, China where the โ€˜quatโ€™ part of the name means โ€œgoldenโ€. In Kenya loquat is normally planted in homesteads.

loquat

As in their natural habitats, these species are seasonal plants with flowering, fruiting, and dormant period; they flower easily every year.

A small evergreen tree up to 6-10 m high. It has a round crown. Leaves are large and strongly ribbed. They are 12-30 cm long and 8-10 cm wide. They are dark green and glossy on the upper surface and woolly white underneath. They are leathery with slight teeth. The new growth is tinged with red. Flowers have a strong scent. Flowers are small and white and in clusters at the ends of branches. They have a scent. Fruit are in loose clusters of about 10. They are pear shaped. They are 3-5 cm long and yellow when ripe. There are 3-5 large brown seeds in each fruit.

Climatic Conditions On Loquat Farming In Kenya

If one word were used to describe loquat, it would have to be โ€˜adaptable.โ€™ Loquat can tolerate cooler weather like its relatives, but also thrives in tropical conditions. According to several sources, it can survive temperatures as cold as 12ยฐF (-11ยฐ C) for a brief period of time.

There is a lack of information on maximum temperatures tolerated by loquat; however, loquat fruits poorly (if at all) in a climate that is โ€œtooโ€ tropical.

As far as elevation, it grows naturally at an altitude of 3,000 to 7,000 feet (914 to 2,100 meters) in China. Loquat fruit production at any given elevation depends on the latitude. A loquat growing at an altitude of 3,000-7,000 feet near the equator may not produce fruit, while the same tree at the same elevation in China will. Of course there are exceptions to all of these climactic ranges depending on the microclimate. For example, loquat trees produced well at 5,000 to 7,000 feet in Kenya, very close to the equator.

Loquat Farming In Kenya

Loquat trees can easily be grown from seed. However, when trees mature and bear fruit, they should be selectively thinned to retain the best fruiting specimen. Seedlings can be used as rootstock and should bear fruit in 5-6 years.

They grow best in tropical or subtropical climates at elevations between 3000 and 7000 ft. Loquat will bear fruit regularly, up to 100 lbs. per year even when at a distance from other trees of its own kind. Fruit size can be increased by removing some fruits when they are small. Fruit size and quality can also be improved by removal of some branches to improve exposure to sunlight.

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Trees grown from seeds are not identical to the parent, so desirable varieties are maintained through grafting. However, unlike many fruit species, fruit from loquat grown from seed is usually very acceptable.

For most species of fruit, grafting is done to maintain a desirable varietal characteristic (e.g. short and compact tree canopy) or to promote early fruit production. It should be noted, though, that grafted loquat trees do not necessarily produce fruit any earlier than non-grafted loquat seedlings. The time to fruiting is 4 to 6 years with a non-grafted seedling, compared to 3 to 5 years with a grafted plant. Of course, these times are dependent on the care and climate under which the tree is grown.

Loquat trees are pollinated by bees and are usually self-fertile. In some cultivars they are self-incompatible and need cross pollination to set fruit. It is recommended to have several different varieties or seedlings for optimal fruit set. The season of fruit production varies from country to country.

The fruit is borne on the terminal ends in clusters of 3 to 5. The time from flower to fruit is 90 days. Many people I know have tasted loquat and found they liked it right away. The fruit is sub acid and juicy with a texture similar to peach or apricot. Fruits are ready when they are totally orange or yellow.loquat tree in kenya

Care & Fertilizer Application

Loquats and a matter of fact all fruit trees should be pruned to the desired shape. The objective is to open up the tree to allow sunlight to penetrate the plant canopy and to lower the bearing surface for easy harvesting and maintenance. It is advisable top rune fruit trees after harvest, remove overgrown branches and sprouts. One must fertilize fruit trees to attain quality fruits, high yields and healthy tree development.

Leaf and soil analysis should inform the farmer on the fertilization regime to implement. Generally well composed farmyard manure does well accompanied by foliar sprays. Over fertilization increases sensitivity to fire blight disease therefore ensure the right dose is applied.

Nutrient Requirement (gm/acre)

Age (in years)FYM (kg/tree)UREASSPMOP
1-2 years10-20150-500200-500150-400
3-6 years25-40600-750600-1200600-1000
7-10 years40-50800-10001500-20001100-1500
10 and above years50100020001500
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Challenges of Loquat Farming

Despite all of the loquatโ€™s great characteristics, there are a few drawbacks. This tree has little tolerance to flooding. The best location to plant a loquat is on higher ground where there will be no standing water. The loquat is also intolerant of saline soil, although it tolerates a wide range of soil types.

Diseases affecting Loquat Farming In Kenya

There are two major diseases that affect loquat; fire blight and loquat scab. As usual, prevention is better than cure, spray copper fungicides as a preventative measure. Aphids are the most common pests and can be controlled using bio-pesticides. General farm hygiene is key to achieving pest and disease free orchards. Prune off any dead or diseased branches and burn them. A well maintained tree will be more disease resistant than one which is not well taken care of.

Ensure trees are well fertilized, irrigated and monitored regularly for any early signs of pest and diseases. In case of any attacks, seek help from your local agriculture officer or agronomist.

Harvesting

Harvesting takes place when the fruits are fully ripe. It takes 3 months from flowering for fruits to reach maturity. The fruits are round or oval shaped borne in clusters and usually yellow or orange when ripe. With proper fruit thinning one can achieve big fruit size; this is done on fruit set by reducing the number of fruits per cluster. Loquat fruits should ripen on the tree for better taste and quality. Fruits that are harvested before they are ripe tend to be bitter and acidic. They are tastier when they are eaten straight off the tree or within a day or two of picking. Seeds are toxic and should not be eaten.

Conclusion

Loquat trees play an important role in the environment; they provide shade, act as windbreakers, its large leaves are a good source of nutrients used as mulch and the tree has a well-developed root system that holds soil countering erosion. It is mostly planted in parks and gardens because of its ornamental appearance. It is also grown on borders of homesteads used as a barrier or boundary. we do have both grafted and non-grafted loquat seedlings for those who are interested to plant a few.

All in all, the loquat is a fruit tree that is easy to grow in many locations and is a beautiful ornamental even when grown where the tree may not bear fruit.ย 

 

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