By Makeli Phiri
The mango and avocado plants are both evergreen fruit trees and do well in the tropical and semi – tropical regions of the world.
Our Zambian weather favors both plants in their growth as they require a warm climate especially in their establishment stage. Both require a frost free and dry periods at the time of flowering, the mango requires sufficient heat during ripening of the fruits. For the avocado the fruit ripens after it is picked from the tree. However, to know whether they are mature for picking, collect a few fruits from the tree and keep them for some days approximately 6 to 10 days. If they do not shrivel and become soft then they ready for picking. If they do shrivel then they are not ready for harvesting they still have a long way to go before they can mature.
The mango plant develops a deep taproot system which makes it somehow resistant to drought. Irrigation is needed during the establishment stage to supplement moisture shortage especially in the first two years.
The people of Zambia need vitamins from these fruit trees. Therefore, our farmers especially those establishing new farms or small holdings, it is an ideal fruit crop to grow by the farmers, the fruit provides vitamin A and C and some other mineral and vitamins which are required in human nutrition. At the same time it can be a source of income at the farm after the sale of fruits.
Generally, the mango seeds lose their viability in about a month. The seed should be washed after extraction and be dried under the shed and be sown within a week. When planted the germinating end should point up.
It is equally important that planting distance are observed during establishment. Closely planted or spaced plants give poor yields when they start giving fruits. Well-spaced plants or crop gives good results.
The recommended spacing is 12 meters between rows and 10 meters between stations. Planting holes should be 60cm in diameter and 75cm deep. The mango seedlings for them to establish well plant during the month of November with first rains.
Avocados on the Zambian market have gained popularity, and it is good for the people of Zambia since they are very rich in protein and minerals as well as oil.
In Zambia the Copper belt is a favorite place where this crop grows and flourishes very well. I believe the soils are very ideal, Livingstone is another area in Zambia which also favors good avocado crops. Trees that are grown from seed take to produce fruit they are between seven to ten years depending on the cultivar. Grafted trees if one is able to come across such, these may give fruit after two years.
The Zambian market has seen different types of avocados during the months of August to the month of March or April and these come in different sizes, small rounded which may have a small seed or big seed occupying almost the entire fruit.
Others are big with small seeds and are shaped like a drinking goud used for drawing water. The avocado is a fruit that lacks the sweetness and acidity that characterize fruits. The fruit is eaten raw and can be used and spread on bread as an effective substitute for butter or margarine.
As already mentioned avocados grow best in high – rainfall areas which are warm. They prefer deep soils which are well drained and are very sensitive in soils where there is too much water in the soil, roots tend to rot.
When establishing an avocado crop as a field. Buy the seedlings from well-established nurseries or from horticulturists nearest your area if they do exist, otherwise contact the Department of Agriculture to help locate any fruit nursery near you. The avocado trees grow very big therefore when planting there should be enough space between plants of approximately seven meters apart.
When planting dig a hole about twice the size of bag in which the young tree is or was growing. From the dug hole add some compost and manure and mix with some soil from the dug hole. When planting do not disturb the roots and cut open the surrounding bag at the side.
Place the plant in the center of the hole and fill the hole while holding the young tree leaving the base level with surrounding soil. The soil around the young tree must be raised. Mulching is important to avoid losing too much moisture from the soil where the young plant is growing. Replacement of the mulch can be done after the old mulch has broken down.
The mango tree is an example of tropical nature’s exuberance. The large production of fruit have made it possible for the majority of people in the tropics it helps them maintain healthy skin because of its abundant vitamin A and one good sized mango give or provides the required daily allowance of vitamin A.
Mango is the richest in pro vitamin A among all fresh fruits in addition to its abundance of vitamin C and E contributes to keeping a beautiful complexion and preventing a premature old age. Therefore, the eating of mangoes plays a part in helping to correct vision loss due to retina conditions such as night blindness. It is therefore important, when mangoes are in season citizens are encouraged to eat as many as they wish while they are still fresh. As of now they have just started put them on a daily diet. Mango’s intense yellow color indicates its richness in vitamin A.
The avocado is one of the richest in high value nutritional fats, proteins and vitamin E, iron and vegetable fibers. Eating avocados rich in iron is very much recommended for all those needing additional iron especially adolescents (particularly girls) and pregnant women. The diet of these category of people should include avocados to avoid anemic conditions because of blood loss or lack of iron.
And because of their ease of digestion and their vitamin E content, avocados are essential in the diets of children and adolescent during period of rapid growth and the elderly wishing to increase the healthy living and vitality. Avocados have the highest iron content of any fresh fruit and it is one of the most nutritious fruit. It can be a substitute for meat.
Therefore, our farmers should plant or open up fields of fruit trees to benefit the people health wise and this would be seen in the eating this fruit in future. However, farming is to produce food for the future. Fruits have very good dietary elements free from pollution that have very good effects in our bodies.
When they are in season any fruit for that matter must be eaten to beyond satisfaction as long as they are in season. We can equally plant our own fruit trees in our backyards and unnecessary buying of the same. Be wise plant a fruit tree around your residence.