Srinidhi Farm
 
Farming Guide for Sapota Plantation

Botanical Name :- Achras zapota, Family :- Sapotaceae

In India it is cultivated for fruits which are liked all over the country.  The fruit is a fleshy berry, variable in shape, size and weight (75-150g).  The skin is thin, rusty brown somewhat scurfy looking like Irish potato, and the pulp soft, melting, crumbling with a sandy or granular texture with 1-5 hard, black seeds.  The fruit is a good source of digestible sugar (12-18%) and an appreciable source of protein, fat fibre ad minerals, Calcium and Iron.  It has become a very popular fruit crop in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Varieties

Kalipatti
State : Maharashtra, Gujarat & North Karnataka.
Popular table purpose variety, leaves broad, thick and green in colour, fruits oblong/round, borne in single, fruit quality high with soft sweet pulp, main picking season winter. Fully grown tree yields 350-400 fruits/tree.
Cricket Ball
State : Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh. It is a table purpose variety. Fruits large sized, round, sweet with granular pulp.
Co.1
State : Tamil Nadu
Hybrid between Cricket Ball x Oval suitable as table purpose. Bearing after 4 years of planting, fruits large, oblong, sweet, flesh reddish brown, weight 125 g, TSS 18%.
Co.2
State : Tamil Nadu
Selection from 'Baramasi' suitable for table purpose. Tree medium in height, fruit oblong-round, medium sized, flesh soft juicy, sweet, gritty, light brown in colour with pleasant aroma, TSS 23%, average wt. of fruit 125-150g.
PKM. 1
State : Tamil Nadu
Selection from Guthi siutable for table purose, profuse bearing, fruits medium sized, ellipticaloblong with thin skin, rich in sugars, TSS 23%, average fruit wt. 80g.
Pilipatti
State : Maharashtra, Gujarat
Suitable for high density plantation, fruits oval with rough surface, pulp gritty, medium sweet, average fruit wt. 400-450g.
Pala
State : Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu
Popular & high yielding cultivar, fruits oval or egg shaped, thin skin, borne in clusters with apex broadly pointed and pulp very sweet with good flavour.
Guthi
State : Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu
Tree medium in height conical in shape. Fruit elliptical, small, brown, Pulp less juicy, soft, gritty, brown in colour, with slight aroma.
Bangalore
State : Andhra Pradesh
Large sized oval fruits with about nine ridges running from the base to the apex, apex round, pulp golden coloured, medium sweet.
Kirtibarathi
State : Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu
It is cultivated for table as well as for processing purpose. Very small egg shaped fruit with four to six ridges on the rind, skin is rough, medium thick with buff colour, pulp very sweet when fully ripe. Ideal for transporting to distant markets.
CO.3
State : Tamil Nadu
Hybrid between 'Cricket Ball' and 'Vavivalasa'. Trees are of intermediate stature. Bearing commences from the fourth year of planting. Fruits are dull brown, oblong, sweet, average annual yield of 157 kg fruits/tree

Spacing
The land should be thoroughly ploughed at 30-45cm depth and levelled. Normally planting is done at a distance of 10mx10m. As the growth of sapota plant is slow it takes a longer period to occupy the allotted space. Therefore, a spacing of 6mx6m is maintained till the canopies meet. Subsequently alternate trees are removed to reduce the plant population.

Pit Digging
Pits of 90cm3 are opened during the summer and exposed to the sun for a period of 2-3 weeks. While opening the pits, the topsoil and subsoil are to be heaped separately. Each pit is filled with topsoil first followed by subsoil mixed with well-decomposed FYM, 1kg Superphosphate and 500g Sulphate of potash. Lindane powder @100g/pit is added to control termites.

Method of Planting
At the time of planting hole just sufficient to accommodate the rootball of the grafted plant should be dug in the centre of the pit. The grafts are planted in the hole in such a way that the graft union remains just above the soil surface. The grafts are staked immediately after planting to protect from strong winds. The young graft is protected from heat by erecting temporary shade covered with grass or plastic sheets. The polythene strip used for securing the graft joint should be removed a month after planting so as to reduce morality of the graft. The new sprouts emerging on the rootstock below the graft joint should also be removed immediately.

Propagation
Air-layering

Air layering is carried out in the month of June. In this method a 1-2 year old, healthy, vigorous, mature shoot of 45-60 cm in length and pencil thickness is selected. A circular strip of bark about 3 cm wide just below a bud is completely removed from the selected shoot. Rooting hormones like IBA & NAA 50mg each in Lanoline paste are applied over this portion. Moist sphagnum moss is packed around this portion and tied with polyethylene sheet to prevent the loss of moisture. Application of such hormones promotes early rooting. Light brown roots are visible through the polythene wrap within 4 months. The rooted shoot is slowly detached by giving 2-3 successive cuts over a period of week before finally detaching from the parent plant. These are planted in pots and kept in nursery under shade. Top of the shoot is cut back to maintain a proper ratio of leaves: roots.

Sapota plants prepared from air-layering are susceptible to damage by strong winds and cannot withstand drought, as their root system does not penetrate very deep into the soil.

Approach Grafting
In this method 2-3 year old 'Khirni' or 'Rayan' plants raised in polythene bags are used as rootstocks due to their strong root system. These seedlings should be atleast 45-60cm in height and 1 cm in diameter at the time of grafting.

Approach grafting should be preferably done in the beginning of rainy season or during February- March. However grafting during February-March is more economical as the grafts will have to be maintained in nursery for a shorter period of time. The success rate of the grafts is also high as compared to those obtained in rainy season.

The mother plants selected for approach grafting should be vigorous true-to-type and between 10-15 years old. The lower most branches are usually bent and tied to a peg near the ground. 1-11/ year old 2 branch (scion) of pencil thickness is selected for grafting. The seedling of 'Khirni' (rootstock) is brought closer to the branch near the ground. The cambium layers of one side of this plant at 10-15cm from the base of the plant is exposed by taking a 5-6cm long and 0.5cm wide cut with a sharp knife. Similar cut is taken on the selected branch of the mother plant. The exposed portion of bot the plants are brought together and secured firmly with polythene strip. Care should be taken to avoid gap between the joints.

The union of the scion and the stock takes place in about 2-21/ months. However, the scion should not 2 be separated for atleast 3-4 months. During this period the 'Khirni' plant should be watered every day for the first 15 days and thereafter, at an interval of 3 days till the graft is separated from the mother plant. The rooted graft is slowly detached by giving 2-3 successive cuts 2cm below the union over a period of month before finally detaching from the parent plant. The grafts are maintained in a nursery under shade for few days.

Soft-Wood Grafting The technique of soft-wood grafting is similar to that of cleft or wedge grafting. The scion should be a terminal non-flowering shoot of 3-4 months maturity with the same thickness as the rootstock. Rootstock of 'Ryan' is mostly used for soft-wood grafting. The selected scion should be defoliated while on the mother plant at least 7 days before grafting, keeping a part of petiole intact on the selected shoot. Defoliation prior to grafting
helps in swelling of dormant bud of the scion resulting in greater success. In this method, a wedge shaped cut is made on lower part of the scion stick. Similarly 4-6cm long cut is made in the middle
portion on the rootstock. The scion stick is then inserted in the cleft of the rootstock and tied with polythene strip. Vigorous sprouting of the scion indicates the successful union of the graft joint. The grafts are further maintained in the shade for sometime before transferring them in the field.

Soil
It can be grown in a variety of soils but deep alluvium, sandy loam, and well-drained medium black soils with pH 6.0-8.0 are ideal for its cultivation. However, shallow clay soils underlaid with hard pan or high calcium contents are unsuitable for sapota cultivation.

Climate
It is a tropical fruit, which likes warm and humid (>70% RH) climate. It grows well up to an altitude of 1, 000m however, coastal climate is ideal for sapota cultivation. Temperature range of 10-38°C and annual rainfall between 1250-2500 mm is suitable for sapota cultivation where it flowers and fruits throughout the year. Temperatures exceeding 43°C leads to flower drop.

Harvesting
The fruiting starts from third year after planting but the economic yield can be obtained from seventh year onwards. Being climateric fruit, it improves in quality after harvesting but pre-mature harvesting leads to poor quality. On the other hand, fruits harvested late soften quickly resulting in spoilage during

handling and transport.
At maturity, the brown scurf on the fruit surface is replaced by yellowish corky brown colour. The absence of green tissues and latex also indicates maturity. The fruits are picked by hand or harvested with special harvester which has a round ring with a net bag fixed on a long pole.

Yield
In general a fully mature tree of 10 to 15 years of age yields 1000-3000 fruits/tree depending on the variety and management practices.

Intercultural Operations
Weed Control

Weeds should be regularly removed from the basin. In young plantations pre-emergence application of Bromacil 2kg a.i./ha or Diuron 2kg a.i./ha has been found effective in controlling the weed population for 10-12 months.

Intercropping
Intercropping in widely spaced plantations is economical. Fruits crops like banana, papaya, pineapple; vegetables like French bean, tomato, brinjal, cabbage, cauliflower; cucurbits and flowers like lily can be grown successfully depending upon the climate and water resources.

Pruning
Pruning is normally done during winter to give shape and reduce the overcrowding of branches. Pruning is important as the flowers and fruits are borne on those branches, which receive maximum air sunlight.

Irrigation
Basin method of irrigation was found beneficial. The size of the basin is gradually increased based on the spread of the canopy. The plants need irrigation at 6-7 days interval in summer and 8-10 days in winter for proper establishment.

Use of drip irrigation saves 40% water and increases the yield. The drip system should be laid out with two drippers spaced at 50 cm from the tree during the initial 2 years and subsequently 2 more drippers are added. The dripper discharge rate should be of 4 litres/hour. The rate of application of water depends upon the climate and the soil type prevailing in the area. By keeping the water tank at a higher elevation the drip system can also operate in case of electricity failure.

Manuring & Fertilization
The nutrient requirement of sapota is high, as it is an evergreen tree in continuous state of growth and fruiting. The fertilizer requirement of sapota varies from the age of the tree and soil nutrient status. The recommended fertilizer schedule is as follows -Under rainfed conditions, nutrient application should be done on the onset of monsoon. However, under irrigated conditions it should be applied in two splits. Total quantity of organic manure and
half the dose of chemical fertilisers should be applied at the beginning of monsoon and remaining half in post-monsoon period (September-October). Since most of the active roots are distributed within the depth of 30cm, nutrients should be applied under tree canopy and mixed thoroughly in the soil.

Packaging
For local markets the graded fruits are packed in bamboo baskets containing straw as padding material. This helps in reducing the bruising and promotes even ripening of fruit. For distant markets fruits are packed in cardboard boxes. Corrugated trays are equally effective as packaging material while transporting the fruits. Use of such trays is cost effective due to its reusability.