Citrus fruits have special importance due to their distinct flavors and therapeutic value. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C with fair amounts of vitamins A and B and minerals such as calcium, phosphorus and iron. The juice is refreshing, delicious and soothing. Besides their consumption as fresh fruit, a large number of products and byproducts are prepared and marketed at a premium price. Citrus fruits are ranked at the top in the world and are produced in more than 52 countries around the world. Brazil is the largest producer of citrus worldwide and produces 20.68 million tons (MT) of citrus fruits followed by China, USA, and Mexico with a production of 19.61, 10.01 and 6.85 MT, respectively. Pakistan has a prominent position and is among the top 10 citrus-producing countries in the world. In Pakistan, citrus is cultivated over an area of 185,000 ha with an annual production of 2.2 million ton. Among citrus, ‘Kinnow’ has gained special significance and has monopolized the citrus industry in Pakistan; it is commercially cultivated because of its better adaptation to soil and environmental conditions and it has not only excelled in area, production and quality relative to other mandarin cultivars but has also surpassed the sweet orange cultivars in the country. ‘Kinnow’ occupies about 70% of overall Pakistani citrus production. Even so, the average yield of citrus in Pakistan is just 9.076 tons/ha, while in many other citrus-growing countries it is much higher: Brazil (21.64 tones/ha), USA (25.98 tones/ha) and Turkey (26.73 tons/ha). There are many serious problems in Pakistani citrus orchards which are responsible for low yield, low fruit setting and excessive fruit drop, leading to losses for citrus farmers.
In this study, to assess the production and post harvest problems, a detailed survey was designed and executed to know the production and postharvest problems of mandarins in Sargodha. The observations and recommendations developed after excessive surveying/field visits of are as under.
Most of the farmers have low land holdings (60% less than 5 ha).
Farmers are depending on only one citrus cultivar i.e Kinnow (Citrus reticulata Blanco) which has monopolized the citrus industry of Pakistan.
The productive life span of citrus orchards is less than 20-30 years compared to other citrus growing countries, where it may go up to 50 years and above. The major reason in this regard is the lack of awareness of the farmers for good agricultural practices and intercropping as food and feed security of farming community. Secondly the farmers do not realize the orchard as an enterprise rather they took as an additional crop in the field. So they are unable to cater the need of Kinnow crop at time of requirement; e.g in the wheat sown orchards real gap occurs between irrigation application and it is antagonistic between citrus and wheat production and likely farmers do inter cropping of maize, berseem and Raya (Brassica) which cause detrimental losses to the citrus plants.
Most of the farmers do not attained their plants from any authentic nursery. There are traditional nurseries without plant genetic resource (PGR) i.e mother rootstocks and scion bud wood is not owned by nurseries, therefore pedigree of stock and scion is not known that’s is why there is variation in orchard plants on one hand and less productivity and productive life span is encountered in the orchards. Common nurserymen bud at the height of 4-6 inches due to which collar rot (matrix distortion) is quite often seen with bleeding (gummosis) at matrix in the nursery. Nurserymen do not sterilize their equipment; thus fungal and viral infection is quite often in the seedlings leading to weaker/infected orchard stand in the field.
Most of the farmers have shortage of irrigation water and not utilizing the available water in benefitting manner (methods of irrigation is defective). Farmers do not get the fitness certificate of tube well water for salt analysis whereas Kinnow is very sensitive to salt water (high pH) and cannot tolerate salinity in the root zone. So high density plantation (HDP) is required for better irrigation water harvest and more yield per hectare.
Most of the farmers are applying fertilizer in fewer amounts compared to recommended one and keep the plants under-nutrition stress. Even if they apply accurate fertilizer, the time of application varies from farm to farm so tees of various sizes can be seen in the same orchard even though planted at the same time.
Farmers have no identification of major insect pests (citrus psylla, leaf minor, fruit fly, thrips, mealy bug, lemon butter fly, white fly, black fly, mites, aphid and termites) and diseases of Citrus plants (phytophthora, diplodia, citrus canker, gummosis, wither tip, slow decline, greening etc) which causes reduction of yield and quality of the Kinnow plants.
The harvesting is done by hand with and without clippers, and during harvesting excessive loss of plant foliage occurs. Use of ladder for picking/harvesting is not a common practice.
Citrus fruits have blemishes on its skin which restricts export and blemished fruits cannot be exported to foreign countries. Insect/pest; disease management and pruning practices are improper for most of the orchards. The lack of awareness is a common factor for good agricultural practices in the orchards.
For packing wooden crates are used which cause damage to the skin of fruits.
Citrus nurseries should be registered and nursery growers should make liable to maintain their progeny blocks as most of the nursery men use uncertified and diseased bud-wood.
New promising citrus and mandarin cultivars should be introduced to diversify the production.
Seedless cultivars have more demand in export market, so the seedless mandarins should be introduced to fetch a good price in international market.
Farmer trainings and awareness seminars about advanced production and post harvest technology should be started in citrus producing area on large scale.
Availability of irrigation water should be insured along with the change in irrigation methods should be done to cope the problem of water shortage; high efficiency irrigation systems (HEIS) should be introduced in the orchards.
It is need of the time to train farmers in harvesting of citrus fruits (especially mandarins).
Farmers should be trained to apply fungicides and insecticides to improve the quality (cosmetic look) of Kinnow.
Inter cropping in Citrus orchards should strongly condemned as intercropping of wheat destroys plants and excessive fruit drop occurs in the month of April when we do not apply irrigation to wheat but fruit drop occurs, similarly in wither months citrus needs only one light irrigation per month but we irrigate berseem weekly to fortnightly, and as a result, rottening of roots occurs. The intercropping of Raya causes excessive attack of sucking insects on citrus plants.
Mr. Muhammad Azher Nawaz, Dr. Muhammad Afzal and Dr. Waqar Ahmed
*Lecturer, University College of Agriculture, University of Sargodha, Sargodha-Pakistan
**Principal/Dean, University College of Agriculture, University of Sargodha, Sargodha-Pakistan
***Sector Advisor Horticulture, FIRMS Project, USAID, Lahore-Pakistan
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