Guava: Apple of tropics

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By S.K. Maiti, patron of Bidhannagar Horticultural Society and a civil engineer residing in FC Block, offers guidance on choosing fruit trees to suit Salt Lake’s soil and climate
  • Published 7.02.14
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So popular are Guavas in India that it is difficult to believe that the fruit is not native to our country. The Guava is one of the most important and legendary fruits of India and because of its hardy and prolific bearing nature, it is well-adapted to grow in most Indian states.

The Guava is the fifth most important fruit crop of India with an annual production of 1.68 million tones from 0.19 million hectares of land. Maharashtra is the highest Guava producing state covering an area of 32,000 hectares. Bihar and Uttar Pradesh come in second and third respectively with an approximate area of 29,000 and 15,000 hectares.

In West Bengal, the area under Guava cultivation is about 12,000 hectares. In West Bengal, Guava is cultivated in almost all the districts. Baruipur, in South 24-Paraganas, is famous for good quality Guavas. In Salt Lake, too, it is grown successfully as a backyard tree.

The Guava is generally believed to have originated in central America or Mexico and was later spread across the world by man and nature. In India it was introduced by the Portuguese in the early 17th century.

Its scientific name is Psidium guajava and it belong to the large family of Myrtaceae that also includes the Eucalyptus tree and several tropical species like Cloves, Nutmeg, Allspice, Cinnamon and also Jamun. The Guava is known as the “apple of tropics” because of its high content of vitamin C, pectin and other nutrients.

The Guava is very popular fruit and available almost all throughout the year, but it mainly bears fruit twice a year, ripening during the rainy and winter season. All though fruit production during the rainy season is high, the quality of fruit is inferior to those produced in winter. Guavas are evergreen fast growing trees relatively easy to grow and capable of high fruit yield with very little care. Its cost of production is low as it does not require much fertiliser, irrigation and plant protection.

Cultivation: Owing to its hardy nature, Guavas can grow in a wide range of soil in tropical and subtropical regions. The best quality Guavas are grown where low night temperature prevails during winter season. Again it tolerates high temperature and draught conditions during summer in north India.

The plant can grow in soils with pH 4.5 to 8.2 and roots can usually penetrate only up to 25cm under the ground. This is why the surface soil should be quite rich to provide enough nutrients. In orchards, Guavas can be planted at a distance of five to six meters apart in a previously prepared pit of 60cm diameter and depth. In each pit apply manure mixture of 10kg of cowdung or farmyard manure, 300g of super phosphate and 150g of potash mixed with soil before planting.

Varieties: Some important varieties of Guavas include Lucknow 49 and Allahabad Safeda. The fruits of Lucknow 49 are large, roundish in shape and the pulp is white, very sweet and tasty. Allahabad Safedas are round in shape and the skin is smooth. The flesh is white, soft and has a pleasant flavour.

The Harijha variety is more popular in Bihar. These trees are of medium size and bear fruits profusely. The fruits are medium to large in size, very sweet and have a long shelf life. Another variety has been named Apple Colour because of the colour of its skin. These fruits are medium-sized, sweet in taste with have can be kept for quite a long time.

Allahabad Surkha is a variety with uniform pink fruits with deep pink flesh. Our own Baruipur Guavas are round with yellowish skin. Their flesh is white and they have good taste and flavour. There are also other varieties like Hafshi, Seedless and Chittidar.

Propagation: The propagation of Guavas by seeds is not generally encouraged because the seedlings take long to bear fruit. Moreover the quality of fruit may not good. Vegetative propagation like cutting, air layering, grafting and stooling are generally preferred.

Aftercare and fertilising: Guava plants do not require much care after planting. Although Guavas are grown without the application of any manure or fertilisers, application of suitable dose of fertiliser induces high yield and better quality fruit. In West Bengal fertilisers are applied in two equal split doses: one in January and the other in August. Each dose of fertiliser will contain 400g nitrogen, 200g phosphorus, 200 potassium (NPK).

Branch Bending

For high production and better quality fruits, a technique known as Branch Bending is used on Guava trees that are more than three years old. This technique is currently practised by growers of states like West Bengal.

It is an innovative technique by which branches are bent down towards the outer periphery to open the central canopy. It allows better penetration of sunlight and aeration. During the bending process, small shoots and leaves are defoliated from the particular branch, keeping intact the 25cm portion of the bending twig. The tied portions of the branches are removed just after new shoots emerge. The bending is performed in summer (April to May) and also in the month of October.

Summer bending produces fruits during winter season, whereas autumn bending produces fruits during early summer. Under this practice 25 to 40 per cent increase in flowering has been observed and it fetches more than 60 per cent returns to growers.

Harvesting: Guavas are harvested throughout the year in one region of the country or other. The fruits develop best flavour and aroma only when they ripen on trees. It is a delicate fruit requiring careful handling during harvesting and transporting. The fruits should reach the consumer in firm condition.

Uses: Guavas are eaten raw like apples, sometimes with a pinch of salt and pepper. The fruit is rich in dietary fibre, vitamin A and C, dietary minerals, potassium and manganese. One fruit of Guava contains about four times the amount of vitamin C as an orange. Guavas are extensively used to make jellies, jams, marmalades and candies. Eat more guavas in order to be healthier.

Some varieties of Guava

Lucknow 49: Large and roundish. Its pulp is white and sweet.

Allahabad Safedas: Round with smooth skin. The flesh is white, soft and it has a pleasant flavour.

Harijha: Popular in Bihar. The trees are medium sized and bear fruits profusely. They are medium to large in size, sweet and have long shelf life.

Apple Colour: Reddish. Fruits are medium-sized, sweet and have long shelf life.

Allahabad Surkha: Uniform pink fruits with deep pink flesh.

Baruipur Guavas: Round with yellowish skin. Flesh is white, has good taste and flavour.

To be continued

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