Custard Apple Cultivation (Sugar Apple):
Introduction to Custard Apple Cultivation:- Custard apple is popularly known as “Sugar Apple” and ” Sweetsop” in most of the countries. Custard apple is native to West Indies and tropical America. Custard apple is grown in wild form in many parts of the world. When it comes to the plant description, the custard apple tree can reach a height of 4 meters to 7 meters and the leaves of this tree are thin and oblong, while the flowers are greenish to yellow. When it comes to fruit description, the shape is spherical through conical and usually weighs about 125 to 250 grams with a length of 7 to 9 cm and a diameter of 6 to 10 cm. Custard apple has knobby segments with a flesh of fragrant and sweet, creamy white. The flesh the fruit resembles custard. Each fruit can have 20 to 30 black seeds depending on the variety. These fruits are usually in pale green colour to deep green colour.
Custard apples are generally hard in nature in early stages. The custard apples can be eaten fresh and used its pulp in many sweets like ice creams, smoothies, cakes, fruit salads. The custard apple has good health benefits along with good nutritious values. This tree leaves, roots, seeds and unripe fruits have good medicinal values as well. There are many hybrid varieties of custard apples developed in Asian countries. As this wonderful fruit has excellent seasonal demand, the commercial cultivation of custard apple is growing every year. Under good orchard management practices, farmers can obtain decent yields and profits in growing custard apples. Not only India is famous for growing this fruit but also this is common in Africa, Philippines, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Taiwan, and China. Custard apples can be grown in containers, backyards, pots as well where at least 6 to 7 hours direct sunlight is available. Let us go in detail of Custard apple cultivation methods from seed as well as vegetative method.
Scientific Name / Botanical Name of Custard Apple:- Annona squamosa.
Family Name of Custard Apple:- Annonaceae.
Genus of Custard Apple:- Annona.
Varieties of Custard Apple:- Custard apples are available in green and red colours. Red Sitaphal, APK , NMK1 (Golden), Annona-7, NMK-2, NMK-3, Arkasahan, Automoya, Chandcilli, FingerPrint, BxA , AxB, AxW, Cherimoya, Hyd Selection Balanagar / Balanagari, Mammoth, Hybrid (Akra Sahan and African Pride), Washington and Purandhar are being cultivated in Indian climatic conditions. However, there are other varieties which include Tropical Sun, Thai KG, British Guinea, Isalnd Gem, and Atemoya.
Common Names of Custard Apple:- Sugar Apple, Pomme Canelle, Tapotapo, Fun Li Chi, Sweetsop, Kaner apra Anon, Anona Blanca, Ati, and Ates.
Indian Names of Custard Apple:- Custard apple is being called with different names in India languages.
- Custard Apple: English.
- Seema Atha / Seetha-Phalam: Tamil.
- Seema Atha / Seetha Pazham: Malayalam.
- Seethapal Pandu: Telugu.
- Kannada: Seetha Phala.
- Sharifa / Sitaphal: Hindi.
- Ata: Bengali.
- Sithaphal: Gujarati.
- Aath: Konkani.
- Sithaphal: Marathi.
- Sharifa / Sitaphal: Punjabi.
- Seetha Phala: Tulu
Custard Apple Growing States in India:- The following states are popular for commercial custard apple production.
- Andhra Pradesh.
- Tamil Nadu.
- Andaman & Nicobar.
- Madhya Pradesh.
Health Benefits of Custard Apple:- The following are some of the health benefits of custard apple.
- Custard apples are good for gaining weight.
- Custard apples are good for eyes, hair, and skin.
- Custard apples are good for digestion.
- Custard apples are good during pregnancy.
- Custard apples may prevent or reduce asthma condition.
- Custard apples are good for heart health.
- Custard apples may prevent high blood pressure.
- Custard apples are good for treating anemia.
- Custard apples may reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Note: Diabetic Patients should avoid this fruit as it may spike blood glucose levels. Contact your primary care physician, before taking this fruit if you are suffering from any medical condition.
Climate Requirement for Custard Apple Cultivation:- Well, custard apple thrives better in tropical climatic conditions. Especially dry, hot and humid conditions favor its growth and fruit set. Moderate winter conditions and high humid conditions during flowering stage and fruit set can yield excellent fruit crop. These trees cannot withstand the frost and severe cold conditions. Areas susceptible to high winds and heavy rains can cause flower and fruit drop, and limb damage. The ideal annual rainfall for custard apple cultivation is about 500 mm to 800 mm.
Soil Requirement for Custard Apple Cultivation:- Custard apples can be grown in a wide variety of soils with good drainages such as fertile sandy, shallow, marginal lands, and wastelands. However, if the sub-soil is ill-drained, then you should avoid planting these trees. Best yields are possible in deep black soils with good draining conditions. Avoid soils which have high alkalinity, chlorine, poor- drainage. Soils which are prone to waterlogged conditions should be avoided. The ideal soil pH for Custard apple cultivation is 5.5 to 6.5.
Propagation and Seed Treatment in Custard Apple Cultivation:- Propagation can be done both by seeds and vegetative methods. Seeds extracted from quality fruits are used for sowing. Custard apple seeds usually last for 2 to 3 years with the best viability. Seed treatment should be carried out by soaking the seeds in cold water for 50 to 60 hours and treating with GA3 500ppm for better germination percentage. Apart from seed, Grafting and Budding are vegetative methods used for propagation of custard apple crop.
Land Preparation in Custard Apple Cultivation:- The land preparation is just like any other fruit crop. Make the field weed free by giving 2 or 3 ploughings along with a couple of harrowing. You can bring the soil to fine tilth stage with this preparation. You can make drainage channels as part of land preparation.
Seed Sowing, Planting and Spacing in Custard Apple Cultivation:- The planting method of triangular or square systems can be adapted in custard apple cultivation. You can directly sow the seeds in the main field or seedlings raised on nursery beds. Grafting planting method is ideal for quick plant growth than seed sowing. In case of seed sowing, the ideal temperature for germination is about 18°C to 26°C. Avoid direct sunlight until they have fully germinated. Seeds that grow in these conditions usually produce seedlings within 3 weeks. However, germinating these in colder climates may take up to 60 days.
Dig the pits with a size of 60 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm at a spacing 5 cm x 5 cm (plant-to-plant and row-to-row distance). However, these measurements may vary depending on soil, variety, and planting method. These pits should be ready before the rainy season. Fill these pits with topsoil and 25 kg of farmyard manure (like cow dung). Along with FMY, you can also apply single super phosphate and neem cake under dry conditions. Once rains started, you can plant saplings in the center of the pits. The basic requiems like staking, providing shade and watering should be done after planting in the field. You can buy high yielding hybrid custard apple varieties in certified nurseries for your plantation.
Season for Custard Apple Cultivation:- Generally, it is a rain-fed crop.
Irrigation for Custard Apple Cultivation:- Usually, custard apple crop is sown as a rainfed crop. However, it is better to provide water before flowering and fruit set. You can water the plants until monsoon arrives. Mist sprinkling is irrigation method when compared to flood or drip irrigation as it keeps to lower down the temperatures and to increase in the relative humidity which can encourage flowering and fruit set.
Intercultural Operations in Custard Apple Cultivation:
- Care of Yong Plants: The gap filling should be done as early as possible. Replace dead or weak trees as part of gap filling with the same age of trees.
- Weed Control and Intercropping: To keep the orchard clean, you should make the weed-free field by removing them regularly. You can give shallow cultivation between the rows and clean the tree basins. You can also earn some income by intercropping with some short period crops like legumes (green gram, black gram, red gram etc..), peas, beans, herbs, and marigold flowers.
- Mulching: Mulching can be done at around the plant base for controlling the weeds and protecting the soil moisture. This can also prevent soil erosion. Mulching materials like paddy straw, coconut husk can be used. After some time, these mulch materials decompose and work as excellent organic manures. However, Now a day’s commercial growers using plastic mulch which you can get in the market.
Training and Pruning in Custard Apple Cultivation:- Training of the young plants is required to establish a strong framework especially during the initial stages of the growth period. Ensure single stem up to 60 to 70 cm height and induce scaffold branches in all directions. Maintain proper spacing between branches by removing overlapping and criss-cross branches. A suitable combination of young and old branches should be maintained by judicious pruning in custard apple cultivation.
Manures and Fertilizers for Custard Apple Cultivation:- Custard apple trees respond very well to manures and fertilizers. These trees produce excellent yields with good quality fruits under timely manures fertilizer management practices.
Age of the Trees N:P:K in kg/ha.
1 to 2 years 75:50:50
3 to 5 years 150:100:100
Above 5 years 250:125:125
Note: Apart from above NPK, you can add any green manure or farmyard manure every year before the monsoon.
Pests and Diseases in Custard Apple Cultivation:- Timely control of pests and diseases in Custard Apple is crop utmost priority for getting higher yields. Custard apple trees are hardy in nature and less susceptible to pests and disease. However, you should be aware of plant protection in case of any disease attack. These trees may suffer from a Mealy bug, Scale insects, Fruit boring caterpillar, Leaf spot, Anthracnose, and Black stone. Appropriate chemical controls are advised. If you want organic custard apple cultivation, then herbal based controls should be applied. spraying with neem oil is recommended.
Note: Your local department of horticulture a good source of finding information about pests and diseases in Custard Apple Cultivation. Don’t experiment on your own without knowing the symptoms and causes of pests and diseases.
Harvesting in Custard Apple Cultivation:- Generally, custard apple changes its colour during maturity (from dark green to light pale green). It takes 3 months to 4 months for fruit maturity after flowering. Ripening fruits indicate cracking in carpels. You can hand pick them before sending to market. If you delay in harvesting, they can ripe on the tree and falls down.
Yield in Custard Apple Cultivation:- Yield of the custard apple depends on variety, tree age, climate, soil and other garden management practices. On an average, a well-established tree can produce about 100 fruits. These fruits can weigh from 100 grams to 250 grams. Arka sahana hybrid variety produces 25 tonnes fruits/ ha. There are many growth regulators available in the market for improving fruit set.
Marketing of Custard Apples:- Freshly harvested fruit can be packed in cardboards and transported to local fruit markets or fruit processing units/factories. As these fruits have the poor shelf life, distant marketing should be done with extensive care.