It ranks third in consumption after citrus and banana fruits in tropical countries. The common apple is believed to have its origin in the mountain ranges of the Caucasus extending between the Black and Caspian seas. In Pakistan various forms of apple showing great diversity in size, shape, colour and taste are grown from the time immemorial, particularly at higher elevations (about 1300m) in the areas adjoining Afghanistan, Iran and China. In Northern areas in Pakistan, wild species of apples are found growing from ancient time but the modern apples have very short history.
The cultivated varieties of apples belong to group Pyrus and sub-group malus. Botanically, these are given the name as Pyrus malus Linn. The crab type of apple is technically called as Pyrus baccata. The apple belonging to this wild species have inferior types of fruits and are generally used as rootstocks for the propagation of improved varieties.
Botanically speaking apple is a spurious fruit developed from the floral receptacle, which, after fertilization becomes swollen, and edible. It is, therefore, placed in the group of pome fruits (pears, apples and loquats). Apple is a very nutritious, aromatic and delicious fruit. It is very rich in Vitamin C, B and A. It contains about 41% sugar besides essential minerals in appreciable amounts.
Climate is an important factor in selecting the sites where apple will grow successfully.
Elevations from the sea level and the topography of the surroundings areas determine the pattern of local climates particularly in respect of temperature regime, aft flow, hail storms, light effect etc. Varieties having higher chilling requirements are planted at a higher elevations. However, killing of buds may occur at high altitudes due to low temperatures and cold winds. Severe prolonged cold (below - 6 degree centigrade) will kill most of the apple trees. Elevations ranging between 1 350m are generally considered good to meet the chilling requirements of most of the apple varieties. Gentle and moderate slopes are preferred to facilitate better orchard management.
Apple tree is more resistant to cold as compared to other deciduous trees. It requires a long cold period (2-3 months) and can tolerate temperature as low as below freezing point. One of the strong reasons to this phenomenon is that their chilling requirements are not met satisfactorily. Annual rainfall ranging between 500-750mm well distributed during growing season are considered desirable.
Apple trees are planted in deep, well drained clay loamy to sandy loam soils. This practice is common because vigorous root stocks are used for better root development. Dwarf root stocks have also been tested for various soils and for different situations and are being released for high density plantations and early bearing. Light, gravely, wet and water fogged soils are avoided for planting apple trees.
1. Golden Delicious: Tree is vigorous, heavy bearer, hardy, with good adaptability. It is partly self-fruitful and is an excellent pollinizer. Fruit medium to large size golden yellow in colour, aromatic, sweet juicy, good in taste, keeping quality is also good. Ripens in September/October.
2. Red Delicious: Tree is vigorous, good bearer. Fruit is large size with golden yellow skin covered with deep red stripes, It is a sweet, aromatic and delicious in taste. Matures in September/October.
3. Amri: Tree is vigorous. Fruit is large in size. Oval in shape. Skin colour is deep red and attractive. Flesh is firm but sweet and good in taste. Keeping quality is very good. Ripens in September/October. It has good export potential.
4. Anna: Tree is vigorous, Has very low chilling requirements. As a tropical apple it can be planted in the plains. Ripens in July/August. Fruit is attractive, juicy and slightly acidic. Keeping quality is also not good.
Yields: Apple varieties start bearing fruit after 5-6 years of their planting However, the improved varieties on dwarf root stocks and with close plantation start bearing fruit after 3-4 years.
The tree on vigorous root stocks reaches full maturity at the age of 10-12 Years. Bearing is delayed if severe pruning is followed in the early years.
In Pakistan Quetta valley, Ziarat and Loralai are important apple growing areas. In Punjab, Cultivation is limited to higher reaches in Murree Hills, Parachinar, Malakand division in NWFP and Northern areas also produce good quality apples. 442395 metric tons of apples are being produced from 39464 hectares in the country. Export possibilities in fresh and processed form exist which need to be further explored.
(Contributed by Horticultural Foundation of Pakistan.)
To draw public attention on cultivation of Fruits Pakistan Post Office, is issuing a special postage stamp of Rs. 2/- denomination on May 8,1997.