Sweetsop (Sugar Apple) are consumed mainly fresh, as they have a rich, creamy, sweet flavor. They are very delicious, nutritious, rich in sugar, protein, and phosphorus, with a highly digestible pulp. They are also used in desserts and the recipes of juices, sorbets, desserts, wine and ice cream. The dried unripe fruits, seeds and leaves powder are used as insecticides. The leaves, stems, and seeds contain fibers, oils, and various alkaloids. Let’s also learn how to grown and harvest this fruit through the following article!
How to Grow Sugar Apple Tree
Seed propagation is the traditional method through which the sugar apple tree is grown. It is the most used propagation method. However, this method has several disadvantages such as low germination rate, high genetic variability, late start of the harvest and the plants are taller and rather difficult to handle.
Collect seeds from fully ripe fruit from a tree that has excellent production, great taste, and good health. Seed should be planted horizontally, 2 – 3 cm deep at a distance of 1.5 cm in a good quality seed mix. Generally, the germination occurs within 30 days.
The other type of propagation is vegetative propagation using grafts. This method is the most recommended because it ensures plants with the same genetic identity, with better production, a healthy tree, and quality fruits. If possible, buy a grafted tree from a nursery.
Requirements for Growing Sugar Apple Tree
Ideal Climate and Temperature
The most optimum temperature for growing sugar apple trees is around 50 F – 85 F (10 – 30 C). However, when the temperature falls below 32 F (0 C), emerging seedlings and young plants die.
Furthermore, the temperatures above or below optimum temperature affect pollination, can cause fruit or bud drop, and reduce post-harvest life.
There must be adequate moisture in the soil to encourage vegetative growth and blooms that occur on the new branches. The tree should be watered every 2 – 4 weeks during the period of low growth and every 3 to 5 days while it is flowering and setting fruits. The water stress must be prevented, and soil must be kept moist at this time as the fruit is more sensitive than the leaves to lack water.
It is undemanding when it comes to soil type. The productive tree is grown in fertile, loose, deep, and neutral or slightly alkaline soil that is not sandy with good drainage and aeration.
Furthermore, drainage is essential to prevent diseases. The growth is directly related to the content of organic matter in the soil.
Relative humidity is one of the climatic factors that are highly responsible for the formation of flowers and pollination. Therefore, if you want to increase productivity, humidity should be maintained above 60% especially during the flowering period.
Sugar Apple Tree Care
Application of complete fertilizer in the initial years of planting is recommended. Once the tree matures enough and able to set fruits the use of 3: 10: 10 fertilizer significantly increases the flowering, fruit setting, and harvest.
As for organic fertilization, sugar apple responds well to the application of organic matter from its earliest period of growth. The application of organic fertilizer improves the texture of the soil and its condition and facilitates root development. It is recommended to apply 60 to 80 kg of aged manure or compost annually.
Sugar apple flowers first open during the day as a female flower. If the female flower isn’t pollinated, early in the next morning the flowers open wider and shed pollen (male stage). It is recommended to attract pollinating insects or hand pollinate the flowers for the best yield.
Harvesting Sugar Apples
- The sugar apple tree begins to produce fruits at the age of 3-4 years and declines after 12-15 years. An average adult tree produces between 100-180 fruits a year.
- The decision of the optimal harvest time is something critical. Also, all fruits do not ripen at the same time and the time of the collection varies, depending on the variety and conditions of weather where they are grown.
- Visual methods based on the discoloration of the skin and shape of the fruit are the most commonly used today to decide when to harvest.
- Another indication of ripening is the change in color of seeds, which pass from light brown color to almost black at the ripened stage.
- These criteria are generally unreliable to indicate proper maturity and fruits are sometimes harvested before ripening. That’s why commercial producers use chemicals to ripen the fruit post-harvest.
- Fruits must be harvested by cutting the stem using pruning shears. Also, it should be harvested in the morning. The sugar apple fruit is very delicate and should be harvested with extra care.
It’s not very difficult to grow a Custard Apple tree at home if you correct the basics. First, choose suitable cultivars with a proven record of producing good quality fruits. Grafted plants are available in most nurseries. You can also try sowing Custard Apple seeds, but they take a long time to grow and establish themselves; there is no guarantee of strength or vigor.Your plant needs well-drained, light soil and sunlight, and well-drained space. When parts of each fruit begin to separate, they are ready to pick. Get these fruits before the bats and ripen them in straw or a box of rice. Pluck them gently when they’re soft and squishy, and enjoy your homemade Custard Apples’ soft, fragrant sweetness.
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