apples in tropics?

Discussion in 'Fruit and Nut Trees' started by ambrose, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. ambrose

    ambrose Member

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    My father has planted 3 apple trees in our piece of land in Nyeri,Kenya.The place is in the central highlands of kenya in Africa.

    The problem is that of the three 3-year old trees ,only one produces any flowers and they are not even many.Then the fruits that result are very small.

    What measures can I take to help him enjoy these rare fruits(apples are temperate in origin and therefore rare and expensive for most people here).

    I have no clue what variety they are.

    Although I have not seen it with my own eyes I do know that some people actually grow apples and pears here in Nyeri-and successfully.
     
  2. smivies

    smivies Active Member

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  3. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    Ambrose:

    Apples are grown extensively in the tropics. Indonesia has well over two million apple trees in commercial cultivation, and they are also grown in Thailand, the Philipines, Egypt, Ecuador and Honduras. The only reason they are not more widely grown is the fierce competition because of cheap imports from, you guessed it, China. China grows apples at such a scale that it floods the market of even local tribal markets of southeast asia. I remember getting a fund-raising flyer from a missionary group in Honduras where they are helping a jungle tribe become economically self-sustainable by growing apples and making cider, and had a photo of two indians pressing cider on a cider press in the jungle.

    The popular varieties in these countries are not the low-chill ones you'd expect; Wealthy is popular in Nicaragua and Rome Beauty in Indonesia. The chilling hours theory for apples is wrong (but seems to be true for stone fruit like peaches and cherries). Here in Southern California we only get a couple hundred chilling hours but can grow most if not all apples (a local grower had 1000 varieties in the late 1980's).

    I spent six months in the Nairobi region of Kenya and you absolutely can grow apples there. The lack of fruiting is not because of the lack of cold, as there can be more reasons. If the three trees are on seedling rootstock, it may take up to ten years to start fruiting. Some varieties are not self-fertile and need a pollinator. Importing rootstock and scionwood or grafted trees may be difficult but is an option worth investigating, as like you said there would be a good local interest (but I'm not surprised if the apples you find there are from China).

    I would plant trees 3 feet (1 meter) apart on Bud 9 rootstock and start with Dorsett Golden, Yellow Transparent, Chestnut Crabapple, Early Joe, Delicious (Hawkeye), Esopus Spitzenburg, Freyberg, Gala, Fuji, King David, White Winter Pearmain, Yellow Newtown Pippin, Rome Beauty, Lady Williams, and Arkansas Black. The Bud 9 rootstock often fruits the second year.

    All these varieties are able to take the heat of the dry season there and have done well with little chilling. You can plant anytime but just after the long rains is when the scionwood is most available. It would probably be cheapest to import rootstock and scionwood. Grafting expertise is locally available in Kenya because of the plantations, but it is not hard to learn.

    With the dry temperate climate of the interior disease won't be as much a problem as insects (everything eats everything in Africa). You may have to resort to apple bagging to get perfect fruit, but as you said, it would be worth it. I hope he decides to try. He will need to get an import permit, which may require some "chai"...
     
  4. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Renowned Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  5. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    Reading the report summary listed above (thanks Daniel) I think there's nothing insurmountable. Your father should have his soil tested to see any deficincies, but these are probably already well-known to the agricultural ministry if you tell them the soil type, i.e. black cotton soil, etc. Just remember apples like low nitrogen.

    I don't seem to remember humidity at all in the Nairobi area, and in fact I froze half the time. If he just wants to stick his toe in to test the waters, he can start with a Dorsett Golden apple tree on M7 rootstock. Developed in the Bahamas, it is a true maniac and will fruit the second year regardless of rootstock,chilling or pollination and will bear heavily. The fruit quality is very good, can be used for cooking, fresh eating, or cider, and it keeps a while. It is considered a summer apple here.

    You can get information on importing rootstocks and scionwood (phytosanitary certificate) by contacting:

    Ministry of Agriculture
    Kilimo House, Cathedral Road
    P.O. Box 30028, Nairobi
    Tel. 718870
    Telegrams: "MINAG"

    They will also be able to point you to where to get soil information on your area.

    Applenut
     
  6. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    I almost forgot- there's been a family of blueberries released that would also do well there called Southern Highbush blueberries. Varieties like Sunshine Blue, Misty, and O'neil are extremely low-chill and can really take the heat. They need acid soil to survive, easily accomplished by digging a hole and filling it with 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 minature bark, and 1/3 shredded compost. Add a handful of soil sulphur and a handful of ammonium sulphate per plant. The berry quality is outstanding. You would have to net the bushes to keep bugs and wildlife out.

    You can find out more about both by doing a Google search on "growing apples in a warm climate"

    Applenut
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Southern highbush native to southern US, thus common name and greater suitability to hot climates than northern highbush.
     
  8. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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  9. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    Ran across this website for Farmer to Farmer, Vermont to Honduras chapter which links farmers in Vermont and Honduras to share knowledge. http://crs.uvm.edu/farmer/farmer.htm#Index

    The Vermont Farmers have focused on helping Honduras with apple growing,value-added processing, and product marketing. One of the main hinderances to apple farming in Honduras is the poor condition of the roads which hinders distribution. I believe I read a report not long ago that this is a problem also in China (which keeps it from absolutely dominating the fresh market like it does the processed market).

    Poor roads were a fact of life in pre and post-civil war United States, especially in the South. Their answer was to dry the apples as it was much easier to ship gunny sacks of dried apples than barrels of fresh apples (50 pounds of fresh apples makes 8 pounds of dried apples). When allowed to soak in water, dried apples plump right up and are indistinguishable from fresh apples when used for baking and cooking. If the only dried apples you’ve had were from the store, you’ll be shocked at the sweetness, flavor, and texture of home-made dried apples. It’ll be all you can do not to eat the whole bag.

    Just about every farm had apples drying in the sun, and varieties like Horse apple that ripened in the heat of summer were especially important. Dried apples were collected by co-ops from scattered farms and brought to distribution points for export. This was a source of badly-needed cash (8 cents a pound by 1900) for small farms in the post Civil War South. In 1876, 2 million pounds of dried apples were exported to Germany!

    Pioneers dried their apples on racks covered with cheesecloth and placed on the roof (it was usually the kid’s job to tend to them and collect them when they’re done).
     

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  10. ambrose

    ambrose Member

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    Thanks applenut, i will be sure to advice my father.
     
  11. ambrose

    ambrose Member

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    I just happened to come across a book that said that flowering of apples in the tropics can be promoted by use of surfactants,domestic detergents and training of branches as substitutes to a chemical called DNOC.Does anybody know more about this or has anybody done it practically?
     
  12. biggam

    biggam Active Member

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    I do not know about the detergents, etc., but I have seen the results of branch training. If left to their natural growth, branches will tend to grow upward, leading to narrow, weak crotch angles, vegetative growth, and competition with the leader (main trunk). New branches on young trees can initially be made to have a strong crotch angle by attaching a clothespin to the trunk just above the new growth (when it's the length of the clothespin or longer). See this webpage:http://www.umass.edu/fruitadvisor/clements/clothespinrecycle.html Longer and 1-2 year-old branches can be tied-down to horizontal to promote flowering/fruiting.
     
  13. ambrose

    ambrose Member

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    Thanks biggam,that surely confirms it.Now only the detergent part needs confirmation.Now I know without a doubt that horizontal branches can only be good for the apple tree as far as apple production is concerned.
     
  14. BlueberryMania

    BlueberryMania Active Member

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    Applenut I live in Nairobi and have just orderered the blueberry varieties sunshine blue and misty. I am initially planning to plant both plants in pots. I am a bit concerned about the chilling requirements. I will plant the plants in a pot-soil mix and possibly add some coffee grounds to the soil to reduce the PH of the soil. I would really appreciate any advice with regards to this. I am just testing the waters and I really hope it works. By the way I am also planting the same varieties in Nyeri as the temprature there gets cooler.

    Thanks
    BlueberryMania
     
  15. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    Chilling won't be a problem for you, but getting enough acid in the soil will, and coffee grounds won't do it. You need to plant them in a mix of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and some coarse material like miniature bark (I'm sure you can come up with some local equivelant). Feed them with an acid fertilizer like for azaleas. If they don't get enough acid they will die a slow, painful death. Other than that, you should have wonderful success.

    I spent 6 months in Karen in 1986, and it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

    Applenut
     
  16. BlueberryMania

    BlueberryMania Active Member

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    Thanks Applenut. It has been difficult to get peat moss but instead I got coco-peat. I am using that (although the ph is slightly higher than peat), plus vermiculite, bark chips mixed with a small amount of high phosphorous fertilizer for the mix (it is an organic mix). In terms of the fertilizer I was planning to use cottonsead meal as this lowers the ph and I believe it is being used for azaleas as well. Now I am crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. I wanted to ask if I add used coffee grounds would it cause any harm to the plants. I was also told to use a vinegar mix to water my plants. do you think that is necessary? Thanks for your help.
     
  17. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    I think the vinegar mix will just wash out, but I guess can't hurt. The cottonseed meal is good. The blueberries will let you know soon enough if they like what you're doing.

    Here in California commercial growers will bring in big tanker trucks of sulphuric acid and inject it into the soil to lower the pH before planting. Not really something a home gardener could consider.

    Next you need to plant apples. I just sent 200 apple trees to Rwanda, and am sending this season to Sierra Leone, Congo, and Sudan.

    Applenut
     
  18. BlueberryMania

    BlueberryMania Active Member

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    Applenut. Thanks for the advise. I will let you know the progress.

    Planting apples sounds like a good idea. Can I order the trees from you? I believe I need a health permit right?

    Thanks once again.
     
  19. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    Apples are grown commercially in Kenya, so you might want to check locally first. We ship overseas, but shipping is very expensive and it doesn't pay to order less than 100 trees. We mostly ship to charity organizations that want to introduce apple culture to war devastated areas as a way for widows and orphans to support themselves. For example you can click on www.applesforafrica.net and click on Sharon's blog on the right. We're shipping to Rwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone and Congo this season.

    Applenut
     
  20. BlueberryMania

    BlueberryMania Active Member

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    Applenut:

    Thanks for the info. I visited the website and have contacted a few places. Have not found too many people that are willing to part with information about apples. What types of apples do you think would grow here? How large would the apple trees be? I was thinking of purchasing some trees and shipping them to my shipper in the states. I usually order goods but I was wondering how long the tree would be able to survive?
    I am seriously thinking of growing apples commercially over here but I have to do a lot more research. Thanks for all your help.
     
  21. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    If you're in Nairobi you can grow just about any variety you want (I remember being so cold there and our house had no heat; the only way to warm up was to get in bed). I have a list that does well in the heat at www.kuffelcreek.com/favorites.htm Ignore people who tell you it won't work; they say that because they are just quoting what other "experts" have said, not because they have actually tried it. I would choose a variety that colored up well despite warm nights like Arkansas Black and Williams' Pride, which happens to be very disease-resistant. To spread out your harvest you could grow Anna, Dorsett Golden, Williams' Pride, Gravenstein, Hawaii, Virginia Winesap, Arkansas Black, Pink Lady, and Lady Williams. This would give you about 5 months of apples, and would blow away any you can get in the market there. All of these take the heat very well, as it hits 113F here.

    Further toward Mombassa you would have to focus on the tropic varieties like Anna and Dorsett Golden, but anywhere around Ngong or Karen you won't need any special culture methods. With shipping and the Phytosanitary Certificate 100 trees runs about $1,200 U.S. It is typical to grow them in pots or a nursery row the first season so you can water and keep an eye on them easier; stray cattle will find the tender young trees a convenient height to munch all the way to the ground.

    Just thinking of Nairobi make me miss it; I haven't had a decent chapate or Kimbo can of chai since 1987.

    Applenut
     
  22. BlueberryMania

    BlueberryMania Active Member

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    Thanks for the info. I will look into growing the apples.

    Got a question on blueberries. I just planted 2 year old blueberry plants. A couple of them came with flowers on them. The others are just twigs with small buds that I think will be flowering soon if the conditions prove favorable. Do I have to remove the flowers?

    Thanks for all the help and sorry about bombarding with questions but am pretty new at this.

    p.s You should pay a visit to Nairobi. I think it is getting colder here as the years go by.
     
  23. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    Purists would have you remove the flowers until the bushes are older. I'm more into instant gratification and giving myself an incentive to press on. Let the berries grow to dress up your soggy bowl of Wheatabix :).

    Applenut
     
  24. BlueberryMania

    BlueberryMania Active Member

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    Thanks for the info. Will keep the flowers for some plants and will remove them for others. Some of the leaves of the plants are a reddish color. Should I be worried?

    Thanks
     
  25. Applenut

    Applenut Active Member

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    The young leaves will start out red, and then in the fall if the plant goes dormant (it may not) they turn red again.

    Applenut
     

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