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High density planting-an approach to increase citrus yields
By M. Azher Nawaz1, Dr.Waqar Ahmed2, M. Mithal Jiskani3
1. Agriculture Officer, Agriculture Extension Office Dhanote, Lodhran.
2. Associate Professor, Institute of Horticultural Sciences, University of Agriculture, Fiaslabad.
3. Assistant Professor, Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam, Sindh.

Citrus is an important genus of family Rutaceae in the plant kingdom. Citrus fruits are cultivated in more than fifty-two countries of the world which are concentrated at 40° North and South of equator. Citrus fruit rank at the top in world production and trade among tree fruits. It is highly prized and economically remunerative. Citrus fruits have special importance due to their distinct flavors and therapeutic values. It is an established fact that grapefruit juice is enriched with antioxidants therefore used as anati-cancer agent by a large population of the world. Moreover, citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C with fair amounts of vitamins A & B. Besides this, they are rich source of minerals (calcium, phosphorus and iron). The juice is very refreshing, delicious and soothing. Citrus fruit comprise about 40% of the total fruits produces in Pakistan and it is cultivated over an area of 185,400 hectares with an annual production of about 1.67 million ton. (FAO. 2005). More than 95% of citrus is being produced in the province Punjab and 70% of citrus grown in Punjab is under Kinnow. In fact Kinnow has monopolized the citrus industry of Pakistan. Pakistan is bestowed with suitable climate and soil conditions to grow citrus. Even then, Production of citrus fruits is very low in Pakistan as compared to other leading citrus producing countries whereas population of Pakistan is increasing rapidly; there is problem of feeding large number of human beings with limited cultivated area. So to meet the needs of ever increasing population of the country as well as for export it is imperative to improve the yield of kinnow mandarin both in terms of quantity as well as quality with ever limiting resource of cultivated lands.

In most orchards with standard planting, the trees are set at the corners of square or rectangles of such size as to accommodate the trees when fully grown. The full distance allowed from tree to tree will not normally be required by the trees for early ten to fifteen years, and in the meantime inter plantings can often be done to take the advantage from the fallow land. The majority of citrus planted in Pakistan are spaced at 22 ft ? 22 ft or 20 ft ? 22 ft giving 90 and 99 trees per acre, respectively. But the tendency since 1990 has been towards closer planting distances. Results of earlier work on density have indicated that closer spacing produce more fruit per acre. A number of grooves have been planted as “hedgerow” plantings on an 11 ft ? 22 ft spacing.

Several countries, including Australia, have higher yields from high-density citrus orchard (>500 tree/ha) as compared to low-density orchards (<500 trees/ha). To date these higher yields have been more evident during the 4 to 10 years period after establishment. In Australia average annual yield in excess of 60 tones/ha have been obtained from 6-year-old “Valencia” orange trees at a density of 2500-5000 trees/ha. Current interest in higher density orchards has been stimulated by a number of factors. These include the irreversible reduction in the availability for prime citrus land through urbanization. The establishing energy costs involved in the use of farm machinery for pest control and harvesting operations etc. The higher costs and reduced availability of water for irrigation and greater difficulties involved in obtaining suitable labor for hand harvesting particularly in orchards where much ladder work is required. Thus shortage of land, energy, water and skilled harvesting labor, together with higher fixed costs which require a more rapid return on capital have all contributed to the trend toward higher planting densities evident in several countries including USA.The major advantage of high density planting is higher convenience and efficiency of tree care, plant protection operations, harvesting and early production of commercial yields. Early productivity shortens investment period and enables quick supply of fashionable market demands for newly developed fruits. Furthermore tree spacing has become an increasingly important consideration in citrus rootstock management because of the benefits of higher tree density on early production and financial returns.

Citrus plantings should be planed so that the biological and management aspects are interrelated to maximize economic return. Due to changes in labor wages, government regulations, and tree loss rates require continual evaluation of citrus plantings to establish optimum system. In Florida a number of changes have occurred which affect returns from citrus production; land values and taxes have increased, certain zoning laws favor the agricultural production; availability of good land for citrus has decreased; citrus on poor soil type results in smaller tree size due to various limiting factors; loss of trees to diseases has increased; and there have been tremendous increase in capital expenditures for equipments and irrigation, interest rates, and labor costs. Because of these changes, it appears that citrus production in the future must make more efficient use of the limited amounts of good land provision for more rapid recovery of investment capital in order to provide maximum average net return. So, tree spacing has become an increasingly important consideration in citrus rootstock management because of the benefits of higher tree density on early production and financial returns. As by high-density plantation we can get earlier return on investment; better spray coverage at less cost, easy harvesting and return to fulfill production sooner after tree damage or removal.

At closer plant spacing Kinnow plants grow taller than its normal pattern of spreading canopy and it was due to competition among plants for light interception in close spacing, owing to which plants get more height. In closer spacing, plants also compete for nutrients which may cause lower and inferior quality fruits. Canopy volume reflects the efficient use of nutrients light and water. At wider spacing plants have spherical type canopy because they have enough space for canopy spread. At wider spacing plants received more light around the canopy and lateral buds proliferate effectively leading to lateral branch development. As a response to more light interception at higher branches, the pattern of growth in Kinnow mandarin changed to upright as against spreading. This very particular behavior of canopy development in relevance to plant height needs regular pruning for canopy management. While at wider spacing number of trees ha-1 are less due to which cumulative yield is low. So a moderate planting distance along with canopy management is required for early and more return. As the value of land increasing and the available land for cultivation is decreasing, in this condition high density plantation is very important and effective as a greatest amount of fruit bearing volume per hectare would be attained.;

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