SCIENTISTS AT the Horticulture College and Research Institute (HC&RI), Coimbatore, have developed a high yielding sapota hybrid that will do well even in dry and marginal lands. This hybrid is released for commercial cultivation by the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, early this year as Co.3 Sapota.
A hybrid between the two popular sapota varieties, Cricket Ball and Vavivalasa, the hybrid yields oblong, ovate and very sweet fruits with pleasant flavour. The trees of this hybrid are of intermediate stature. The upright growth habit and compact nature of the canopy of the trees make them amenable for high density planting, at an espacement of 5 to 6 m apart instead of the conventional spacing of 8m by 8 m.
The hybridization programme was initiated in 1950s, and the seedlings were planted in 1954. But the performance of this hybrid was assessed only from 1991 till 1999. The hybrid was compared with both the parents, Co.1 and Co.2 sapota of the same age. It consistently outperformed the other four varieties in terms of fruit number and weight per tree. This new hybrid can be differentiated from other sapota varieties by its oblong-ovate fruits. The fruits had a higher sugar content than the varieties compared with.
It had recorded an average annual yield of 157 kg fruits per tree when compared to only 101.32 kg fruits by Co.1 and 109.5kg fruits by Co.2. The hybrid registered a yield increase of64.03 per cent over its female parent (Cricket Ball), and 61.83 per cent over the male parent (Vavivalasa). Pests or diseases do not affect it seriously. Occasional incidence of leaf spot was noticed, and sporadic low incidence of leaf webber (Nephopteryxeugraphylla) was observed. The hybrid is multiplied by approach grafting on Pala or Khirnee (Manilkara hexandra) rootstock. The hybrid is well suited for growing in the plains of Tamil Nadu. It prefers a warm and moistweather and grows in both dry and humid areas. A coastal climatic condition with an annual rainfall of 1200 to 2500 mm is highly suitable. The optimum temperature is between 11 and 34 degree Celsius. This hybrid can be grown in low rainfall tracts and marginal lands. It can also tolerate moisture stress and canbe grown in inundated lands.
The hybrid responds well to manurial application. For each bearing tree, a dose of 750 g nitrogen, 750 g of phosphorus and 1250g of potash is recommended each year. Application of 50 kg farmyard manure annually, would be highly beneficial. The ideal season for planting is June-November. About 400 plants can be accommodatedin the high density planting. Copious watering is needed in the early stages of establishment of the young plants.
Bearing commences from the fourth year of planting, and economic yield starts from the tenth year onwards. In the first three years of planting the crop should not be allowed to bear as thedeveloping flowers and fruits can exhaust the plant. A high- densitysapota orchard planted with this hybrid has potential to yield 40 to 50 tonnes of fruits per hectare every year. February to June and September October are the peak seasons of harvest.
The mature fruits are dull brown, and they should be plucked by hand. To enhance ripening, the fruits should be kept in airtight chamber along with 0.5 ml ethrel dissolved in one litre of water.
The hybrid yields oblong, ovate and very sweet fruits with pleasant flavour.