Introduction of Sapota fruit: – Sapota fruit is a native of Mexico and other tropical counters of South America. Sapota commonly known as chiku fruit is mainly cultivated in India for its fruit value, while is South East Mexico, Guatemala and other countries it is commercially grown for the production of chuckle which is a gum like substance obtained from latex and is mainly used for preparation of chewing gum. In India, it has become a very popular fruit crop in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.

Varieties cultivated in different states of India: –

State in India                      Varieties of Sapota grown

Andhra Pradesh   –      Cricket ball, Kalipatti, Calcutta round, Kirthibharathi, Dwarapudi, Pala,

                                            PKM-1, Jonnavalasa 1 & 2 Bangalore, Vavi Valsa.

Bihar                      –      Baramasi

Gujarat                  –      Kalipatti, Pillipatti, Cricket Ball, PKM-1

Karnataka             –      Cricket ball, kalipatti, Calcutta round, DHS-1, DHS-2

Maharashtra         –      Kalipatti, Dhola Diwani, Cricket ball, Murabba

Orissa                    –       Cricket ball, Kalipatti

Tamil Nadu         –         Pala, Cricket ball, Guthi, Co 1, Co 2, PKM-1

Uttar Pradesh    –          Baramasi

West Bengal       –          Cricket ball, Calcutta round, Baramasi, Baharu, Gandhevi Barada

Suitable Soil for Sapota farming: – Sapota fruit can be grown in a variety of soils but deep alluvium, sandy loam, and well drained medium black soils with ph 6.0 to 8.0 are ideal for sapota farming. However shallow clay soils underpaid with hard pan or high calcium contents does not support farming.

Climate for Sapota farming: – Sapoata is a tropical fruit, which likes warm and humid (> 70% RH) climate. It grows well up to an altitude of 1000m however, coastal climate is ideal for sapota farming. Temperature range of 10-38ᵒC and annual rainfall between 1250-2500mm is suitable for sapota cultivation where it flowers and fruits throughout the year. Temperatures exceeding 43ᵒC leads to flowers drop resulting in poor crop.

Land preparation for sapota farming: – The land is ploughed two to three times and then leveled. Undulation land is divided into terrace and leveling is done. Tall and thick growing trees viz, mango, jamun, tamarind, silver oak and casuarinas are established on the wind ward side or on all sides of the orchard. The plants for windbreak may be planted at a distance of 1.5 to 1.8m in a row.

Planting Meterial in Sapota farming: – Sapota is commercially propagated by vegetative methods such as air layering or goatee layering, grafting and budding.

Best season for planting Sapota: – Planting can be done in any season provided irrigation facilities are available. Grafts are usually planted in the beginning of the rainy season. In areas where heavy rainfall is present the crop can be planted as late as September.

Spacing of Sapota plants: – The land should be thoroughly ploughed at 30-45cm depth and leveled. Usually planting is done at a distance of 10m X 10m. As the growth of sapota plant is slow it takes a longer period to occupy the allocated space. Therefore, a spacing of 6 m X 6m is maintained till the canopies meet. Subsequently alternate trees are removed to reduce the plants population.

Pit Digging in Sapota farming: – Pits of 90 cm 3 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 in Sapota farming: – At the time of planting hole just sufficient to accommodate the root ball of the grafted plant should be dug in the centre of the pit. The graft 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.

Irrigation/Drip irrigation in Sapota farming: – Irrigation is provided at an interval of 30 days in winter and 15 days in summer. This system has been found to be beneficial in saving 40% water with 70-75% higher income. This system is laid out with 2 drippers spaced 50 cm from tree at an initial stage during the first two years and then 4 drippers about 1m away from the tree till it attains five years of age.

Inter cultivation is Sapota farming: – Inter cropping with banana, papaya, pineapple and cocoa; French bean, peas, tomato, Brinjal, Cabbage, Cauliflower, cucurbits is recommended depending upon the climate and irrigation facilities available.

Weed control in Sapota farming: – Weeds should be regularly removed from the basin. In young plantation pre emergence application of Bromacil 2kg a.i/hectare or Diuron 2kg a.i/hectare has been found effective in controlling the weed population for 10-12 months.

Pruning in Sapota farming: – 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.

Insect pests and Diseases: – Most common pests in Sapota farming are leaf webber, hairy caterpillars and bud worm. Spraying with phosalone 35 EC (2 ml/L), chloropyriphos 20 EC or endosulfan 35 EC have been found to be effective in controlling the pests. The main diseases reported are leaf spot (Pheopheospora indica), base rot (Ceratocystis paradoxa), heart rot (Phytophthora parasitica) and anthracnose (Colletotrichum gloeosporioides). Applications of Dithane M -45, copper oxy chloride (3 g/l) etc. have been found to be effective.

Manuring & Fertilization in Sapota farming: – The nutrient requirement of sapota is very 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 rain fed 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 fertilizers 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.

Harvesting and Yield of Sapota: – Sapota starts bearing from third year of planting but economic yields can be obtained from 5th year onwards. The two main seasons of flowering are October to November and February to March and the two corresponding harvesting seasons are January-February and May-June. Sapota takes four months from flowering to maturity of fruits. The fruits are handpicked or harvested with special harvester which has a round ring with a net bag fixed onto a long bamboo.

The crop bearing commences from fifth year. As such inter cropping like vegetables may be taken up in the first four years of the project make it viable. In high density plantation, the production increases from 4.0 tones/acre in the fifth year to 6.0 tones/acre in the 7th year. Thereafter, the yield stabilizes at 8.0 tones/acre from 8th to 15th year.

After Harvesting Sapota fruit:

Grading: – Grading is mainly based on size and shape of the fruits. The fruits are graded into three categories depending on their size viz. large, medium and small.

Storage: – The fruits are highly perishable and can be stored under ordinary condition for a period of 7-8 days after harvesting. At a storage temperature of 20ᵒ C, the storage life can be increased for a period of 21-25 days by removing ethylene and adding 5-10% CO2 to storage atmosphere.

The fruits are dipped in GA (300ppm) and Bavistin (100 ppm) solution at a pre packing stage in order to extend the storage life of the fruits. Sapota being a climactericfruit has to be ripened artificially. Unripe fruits can be ripened by applying ethephon (1000 ppm) at 20-25ᵒ C and can be stored for five weeks. Ripened ones can be stored at 2-3ᵒ C and 90-95% RH for a period of six weeks.