Peaches (Prunus persica L. Batsch), belongs to the Rosaceae family and a species of Prunus, is one of the most important stone fruits in the world standing next to apple and pear (Abidi et al., 2018). It is believed that the cultivated peach is native to China. Now a days, the cultivation of peach has been extended to non-traditional areas in the subtropical and tropical regions worldwide, where the climate is different from their natural habitat.

peaches in kenya

Peaches are rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Besides, it contains carbohydrate, organic acids, antioxidants, phenolics, and trace amounts of proteins and lipids. Furthermore, production of peaches have multiple uses for the farmers such as crop diversification; insure food and nutrition security particularly for people who live in highland areas with cereal-based agriculture that are prone to imbalanced food habit.

Peaches are used for the establishment of small and medium scale agro-industries, reduction of unemployment, import substitution, and foreign exchange earnings It is friendly to the environment and can easily be incorporated in agro-forestry program of the highlands due to this it has a paramount potential for mitigation of climate change and natural resource conservation

Site Selection

Selecting a site for an orchard is the single most important decision a prospective grower will make that impacts long term productivity and health of an orchard. Important considerations in seeking an orchard site include elevation/air drainage, soil type and internal drainage, water quality, previous site history and market access.

Peach trees perform best on sites not previously planted to stone fruit orchards and/or that have cleared from existing forest for a number of years. Old orchard sites should not be replanted for at least three years because of soil borne disease problems. Immediately planting a site that has been cleared of standing timber, especially post oaks is not recommended because of the risk of pathogens such as oak root rot (Armillaria mellea).

Peaches Seedlings

It is important to know how the crop will be marketed in order to accurately select peaches varieties and orchard size. Some of the best orchard locations are in relatively remote areas where pick your own or retail sales may not be practical. Wholesale marketing usually results in somewhat lower prices, but is an important alternative when larger orchards are planted.

Peaches are extremely perishable and there is little flexibility to explore alternative markets once harvest begins.

Soil and Climate

It is cultivated on varied type of soils but deep sandy loam soil rich in organic matter is best for its successful cultivation. It is highly susceptible to water logging and prefer perfect drainage. Low chilling peaches can be grown successfully in subtropical climate. It requires humid climate with cold weather.

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Peaches requires deep sandy loam soil rich in organic matter with good drainage. The pH of the soil should be between 5.8 and 6.8. Acidic and saline soils are unfit for peach farming in Kenya. The land with gentle slope is ideal for peach cultivation. The fruit thrives best in foothills, high hills and mid hills situation.

If the pH is below 5.8, lime may be required before the planting beds are established. In sites with
high soil pH, rootstock choices may help overcome nutritional deficiencies common to alkaline soils. High salinity levels in either soil or water may indicate that a particular site should be avoided.

Clean, salt-free water is essential for commercial peach production. Irrigation water is considered adequate if it has a SAR (sodium absorption ratio) below 3.0 or total salts below 1,000 ppm. Soil samples in conjunction with annual or semi-annual leaf analysis will provide the greatest guidance in determining nutrient deficiencies and can help refine annual fertilization programs.

Peaches Propagation

Raising of root stock: For raising root stock, wild peach is propagated through seeds. Seeds are kept in moist sand for about 10-12 weeks for stratification. The seeds are sown in beds about 5 cm deep and 15 cm apart at a row to row spacing of 20 cm. Beds are mulched with dry grass followed by light irrigation.

Grafting: Tongue grafting is a commercial method of peaches multiplication. A smooth slanting cut of 4-5 cm is made on the one year old rootstock at about 15-20 cm above the ground level and another downward cut is given starting approximately 2/3rd from the top of the slanting cut and about 2 cm in length.

This formed a tongue like structure on the stock. Similar cut is also made on the lower side of the scion exactly matching the cut given on the rootstock. The scion of 20-25 cm length having 2-3 buds of previous season growth is then fitted lightly with the rootstock and tied with polythene strips. The union completed within 30-45 days and after that polythene strip is also removed to avoid girdling.

Land Preparation and Spacing For Peaches

Land must be prepared by proper dig at 5m X 5m apart and the beds are fully filled with 20 kg of FYM, 125 g of urea and 25ml of chlorpyriphos. These are mixed with 30 cm soil and filled above 10 cm of ground level.

Sowing

Time of sowing
T- budding is done in the first week of May. T -budded seedlings are ready for transplantation in field in the month of December-January.

Spacing
For planting square system is used with spacing of 6.5 m x 6.5 m.

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Sowing Depth
The seeds of peach tree must be sown in beds which are 5 cm in depth with 12-16 cm apart from each other.

Method of sowing

In the starting budding /grafting is done and then transplanting method is used for growing the plants in the main field.

Peach Tree Training

After planting, nursery stock is pruned to a single trunk and headed back to a height of about 24
inches. With one year old nursery stock, all lateral branches are removed. With older stock, trim back to a single main trunk, but stub lateral shoots back to allow new buds for scaffold limb
formation.

For optimal success in the planting operation, use the following steps:

  1. Purchase healthy, vigorous nursery stock on appropriate rootstocks from a reputable nursery. You may contact +254 724559286 for quality peaches seedlings in Kenya.
  2. Plant trees while dormant. In our climate, early planting gives good root establishment before bud break.
  3. Make planting holes large enough to accommodate the root system. Dig the hole size 2*2*2feet to fit the root system, do not prune the roots to fit a smaller hole. It is allowable to
    prune back diseased or damaged roots, or to cut back a few excessively long ones.
  4. Firm soil around the newly planted tree and water well to help settle the soil and to eliminate air pockets around roots. Add water as needed.

FERTILIZER

ย Fertilizer Requirement (kg/tree):

Tree age

(in years)

FYM

(kg/tree)

UREA

(gm/tree)

SSPย 

(gm/tree)

MOPย 

(gm/tree)

1-210-15150-200200-300150-300
3-415-20500-700500-700400-600
5 and above25-3010001000800

When the tree is 1-2 years old, apply [email protected] kg/tree, [email protected]/tree, [email protected]/tree and [email protected]/tree. When the tree is 3-4 years old, apply [email protected]/tree, [email protected]/tree, [email protected]/tree and [email protected]/tree. When the trees is 5 years and above, apply [email protected] kg/tree, [email protected]/tree, [email protected]/tree and [email protected]/tree.

Weed Control

These are regulated by manual weeding however it is tiring as well as expensive.ย  As peach roots are irregular, they can be often damaged by continual ploughing. Thus, usage of herbicides is excellent substitute.ย  A pre-emergence applying Diuron @ 800 gm-1 kg/acre or even post-emergence use of Glyphosate @ 6 ml/acre in 200 liters of water throughout February-March efficiently manages broad-leave weeds as well as usual grasses in new orchards.

Training and pruning

The main goals of pruning are to maintain tree form to an open center which facilitates light penetration and air circulation, and to partially control crop size by selectively thinning out fruiting wood. Peach trees bear fruit only on one year old wood. Dormant pruning is an invigorating action which results in a healthy canopy to produce the current season’s crop and allow for ample production potential for the following year.

Another pruning objective is to lower the fruiting zone to a height which can be hand-harvested from the ground. Topping trees at 7 -8 feet usually accomplishes this objective because the weight of the crop will bring limbs down where the fruit can be easily reached.

Peaches Irrigation

After planting the trees, irrigation should be given immediately. In rainy season, these plants may not require watering. Drip irrigation is the best method for effective use of water. Irrigation should be given at some critical stages, in case of dry spell. Watering is important at flowering/budding stage and fruit development stage.

Peaches Fruit Thinning

Peaches will begin bearing a commercial crop in the third or fourth year. Most peach varieties set far more fruit than can be grown to large size with good quality. Thinning is used to control the number of fruit per tree in order to increase fruit size and quality as well as to insure adequate vegetative growth in the trees. Prices of large fruit are usually at least twice those of small fruit and large fruit are more economical to harvest.

The earlier fruit is thinned from a tree, the greater the size response of the remaining fruit. Early ripening varieties are ideally thinned during bloom, but the risk of frost generally dictates that growers thin them shortly after fruit set. As a rule of thumb, fruit should be thinned within 4 to only two fully proven methods currently available to the peaches growers. Hand thinning is the most precise and expensive but enables growers to more carefully select the desired fruit position.

Mechanical thinning by machine shakers has been used for several years and with careful machine operation it is quite successful. The major drawbacks are a tendency to damage trees if used improperly and the necessity of waiting for the fruit to get large enough to be shaken off. This limits the usefulness of machine thinning on early ripening varieties.

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