Problems of peaches in Northern Areas

PEACHES HAVE been grown in Asia for more than 2000 years, and produced for centuries in the United States. Peaches are considered the “Queen” of the fruits and second only to apples in popularity as a deciduous tree fruit because of their fine flavour and many uses as a fruit. The peach tree, Prunus persica, is a deciduous tree, native to China, where it was first cultivated. It is classified with the almond in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by the corrugated seed shell. It belongs to the subfamily Prunoideae of the family Rosaceae.

Peach fruit has yellow or whitish flesh, a delicate aroma, and a skin that is either velvety (peaches) or smooth (nectarines) in different cultivars. The flesh is very delicate and easily bruised in some cultivars, but is fairly firm in some commercial varieties, especially when green. The single, large seed is red-brown, oval shaped, approximately 1.3-2 cm long, and is surrounded by a wood-like husk. Pakistani Peaches are well renowned in the world for their taste and freshness. This fruit is exported to different countries from Pakistan. Peach fruit has lots of minerals and vitamins essential for the growth of human body and for prevention against different diseases. There is a diversified form of peach called Nectarine which is almost similar to peach but is eaten along with the skin whereas the peach is normally pealed before consuming.

Peaches are used for making Jam because it is difficult to store it fresh. Peach should never be grown near an almond tree because these are known as brothers to each other and there can easily be the cross breed resulting in the bitter nuts. Each can be used to reduce weight especially in women. The women should eat plenty of peaches and thus can reduce weight within weeks avoiding foods containing fats. Peach is a source to eradicate toxins and waste materials from the body. Doctors advise to eat peaches and other fruits to detoxify the body and to help attain the maximum level of good health. The general idea is to eat 5 to 7 peaches in a day along with other fruits as a crash course against obesity and other diseases.

China is the leading peach producing country with about 37 per cent share of the total world production followed by the United States and Italy. More than half of this consumption was as fresh; this is likely to increase because of the popularity of fresh-cut fruits in recent years. In Pakistan the environment of N.W.F.P is quite favourable for peach production. It is traditional crop of Northern area of Pakistan and occupies the area of 4543 hectares with the production of 48284 tons. Quettea, Kalat, Peshawar, Swat valley and certain parts of Kohistan hills are the main growing area of peach.

The economic life of peach orchards in Pakistan is 7 to 10 years and the most important factor responsible for this decline has been identified as the use of inappropriate rootstock and calcium induced iron chlorosis. A major problem with wild peach rootstock is its genetic variability. Different types of rootstocks have been used for peaches in the world. GF 677 is a potential rootstock under Pakistani soil conditions resulting to extend the economic life of the orchard beyond 15 years. It is considered to be a rootstock for calcareous and high pH soil conditions because it is resistant to calcium induced iron chlorosis and useful in replant situations to avoid replant disease syndrome. It is resistant to peach rust, crown gall, root knot, and is more vigorous than peach seedling rootstocks.

The fruit yield, average fruit weight and fruit quality is higher in trees on GF 677 root stock. However, no report exists about its multiplication through tissue culture in Pakistan. Peaches quality could only be maintained, not improved, after harvest, little emphasis has been given on the influence of pre-harvest factors that determine the ultimate postharvest quality of fruits. Pre-harvest factors often interact in complex ways that depend on specific cultivar characteristics and growth or development stage sensitivities. After harvest, rapid ripening in peach fruits is responsible for short shelf life and represents a serious constraint for efficient handling and transportation for local as well as for distant markets. Peach fruit is highly perishable during storage at room temperature due to rapid ripening and high susceptibility to pathogens which limits the transportation of peach fruits to the foreign markets.

Ripening can be slowed down by cold storage. However, cold storage life of peach is frequently limited by chilling injury (CI) and loss of quality. Peach leaf curl is one of the most damaging diseases which has been caused by recent rains and unexpected cold weather in Swat and surrounding areas. If not properly controlled at appropriate time, the disease is feared to damage the crop further as rains are still expected in these areas.

The writer is associated with the Institute of Horticultural Sciences, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

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