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Are they splitting on you?

After spending time and effort on nurturing fruit trees, waiting to enjoy the yield, nothing can be more discouraging than fruit splitting before they are completely ready to be harvested.

Figs

The main reason here is one the gardener has no control over: moisture. Above average rainfall or humidity just as figs approach maturity cause the fruit of most varieties to crack and split, more often during the night when evaporation is reduced. At Namibian coastal areas with a sharp fluctuation in humidity levels, this can be a problem. Cracking is caused by high water levels in the entire plant. The relatively weak structure of the fig fruit, which is actually an extension of the tree's stem tissue, shows the effect of this high pressure by splitting open. Slight splitting however is normal in soft, ripe fruit ready to be picked.


Figs, of course, need full sun – at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day. Early morning sun is especially important to dry morning dew which can cause various fungal diseases. Figs trees normally don't require much pruning, but it would make it easier for air to circulate and help the leaves to evaporate excess moisture more effectively. Trim back to five or eight main leaders, spaced well apart. Pruning may reduce the overall yield, but the resulting crop is usually of high quality.

Pomegranate and Navel orange split
As with figs, it's an abiotic disorder, a problem that cannot be attributed to any living organisms, such as insects or plant pathogens, stemming instead from environmental or cultural conditions. Being a physiological problem, no chemical control is possible.

Splits are most likely to occur when water and sugar are transported from the roots of the tree to the ripening fruit, and the rind is unable to expand quickly enough to accommodate the added volume. Consequently the rind bursts open under the pressure. Thin skin varieties are usually more prone and rinds that have been sunburned or otherwise damaged may be less elastic and more apt to split.

Stress, such as extreme fluctuations in temperature, humidity, soil moisture and possibly fertilizer levels can lead to fruit splitting – a combination of these factors rather than by a single cause. For example, when hot weather is combined with high winds, the tree becomes drought stressed and begins to take water from the fruit, causing the fruit to soften and the leaves to cup. If this is followed by heavy irrigation, the dehydrated fruit swell, causing them to crack. If such conditions subside, rather irrigate lightly for a few days before resuming a normal irrigation schedule. A lack of sufficient potassium can also be a reason for weak fruit cells.

Fruit trees should be fertilized every three months with a balance slow release fertilizer. We recommend Efekto's 3:1:5 slow release fertilizer, supplying nutrients at an even rate over the length of the growing season.
Damaged fruit dropping from trees should be discarded as they may harbour fungi, bacteria, insects or other unwanted pests.

SOIL PREPARATION cannot be stressed enough. Do not skimp on organic matter such as compost or coco peat for effective retention of moisture and nutrients. Trees planted in sandy or porous soil that do not retain moisture well, will be more susceptible to fruit splitting. Always plant with Efekto's Bone meal or Superphosphate to ensure a healthy root system.

Text: Maria Nel from
Ferreira’s Garden Centre.
Tel: 061-234900

Riaan Momberg: Efekto
Tel: 081 124 0288


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