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Starting a citrus farm

Oranges are just one of the many citrus fruits you can grow.
By Entrepreneur Staff |

Citrus is a popular selling fruit that thrives well in tropical and subtropical climates. Some of the best quality oranges are grown in the non-humid, irrigated, subtropical areas such as the Mountain Province. It can be grown in our four types of climate but areas with well-distributed rainfall throughout the year are best. Those with distinct and long dry periods should bank heavily on irrigation to raise high quality citrus fruits.

Citrus fruits are rich in vitamins, especially vitamin C. Its mild acid and bitter taste favorable to digestion and blood circulation. Citrus peels are rich in pectin, valuable in making jellies, marmalades, candies, jams and pharmaceutical preparations.

Several species are highly adapted to the country. The most important include calamondin, mandarin, pomelo, lemon and lime.

Citrus can be propagated by seed budding, grafting and marcotting. Commercially, seed budding, which is universally applicable to all citrus species, is the preferred method. Although grafting and marcotting produce satisfactory materials, and therefore may be recommended only for small-scale propagation.

By means of shallow cultivation, the nursery is always kept free. Weekly, seedlings are sprayed with the appropriate insecticides to control pests and leaf cutting insects. Every 2 weeks, copper fungicide is mixed with the insecticide to control diseases. Once a month, at time of weeding, 1 level tbsp.  of 5 grams of  urea is applied around each seedling.
From a budded plant, tape is removed 2 to 3 weeks after budding. If the bud looks fresh and green, the lower half of the tape is left intact until the bud begins to grow. When the budding reaches about 10 cm, lopping can be done to hasten growth. Only one vigorous scion should be allowed.
Cultural practices such as weeding, cultivation, watering and fertilization should be continued to promote the development of the plant. To avoid infestation, spraying of appropriate insecticide should be done every 2 weeks.

Planting can be done anytime of the year if irrigation is available. Balled or bare-rooted budlings are planted in holes big enough and always enriched with a handful of complete fertilizer, high in phosphorous. Topsoil is used to fill the holes and this is pressed down firmly to avoid large air spaces. Newly planted budlings should be watered immediately.
Planting of citrus follows a certain arrangement in which trees are set out in the orchard. Systems used include square, rectangular, triangular, and quincunx. Rectangular and square systems are to be used where intercropping is to be done.

In rectangular and square systems, the rows of trees are set at right angles to each other. In a triangular system, trees are set at the corners of equilateral triangle. In the quincunx system, four trees are set in a square and a tree is planted in the center.

Care for the bearing groves is observed through the following:

1. Irrigation. This is important to avoid water stress. Trees are watered until the rainy season begins. Irrigation can be through furrow, hose, or sprinkle.

2. Fertilization. Plants need 2 to 3 fertilizer applications each year.

a. First, when the rainy season begins;
b. Second, during the middle of the rainy season; and
c. Third, when the rainy season is about to end. Fertilizer can be applied or sprayed.
Fertilizer can be applied directly or sprayed.

3. Pruning. Pruning means removing diseased and dead twigs, branches, and leaves which are unproductive and are less exposed to sunlight. Best time for pruning is during the dry season or after harvest.
4. Spraying. A certain spray program should be strictly observed. Two or three types of chemicals against a particular pest should be alternated to avoid developing resistance of the chemicals.
5. Propping and setting of the windbreaks. To prevent the crop from touching the ground and the branches heavily laden with fruits. Ipil-ipil windbreaks on the windward sides of the orchard can be set up.

Periodically, sampling has to be done to check whether fruits are ready for harvesting. Generally, citrus trees start bearing fruits 3 to 5 years from planting and can be harvested 5 to 6 months from flowering depending on the species and the environment. Unlike other fruits, citrus does not ripen further after it has been harvested, so it is important that it is picked at the right stage of maturity.
Maturity indices include color, juice content, level of soluble solid (sugar), titratable acidity, and solids to acid ratio.

Best time to harvest citrus is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the dew has dried up and fruits have lost their turgor. Fruits, which are frigid, are easily bruised resulting in brown patches on the rind, which indicate direct injury to the oil cells in the rind. This lowers fruit quality.
The proper way to harvest citrus is by pulling or clipping from the stem. "Twist, jerk and pull", experts say, is the general rule. Use of hand gloves reduces to a great extent injuries on the peel of citrus.
Canvas bags of suitable sizes with hooks at the bottom are best for transporting fruits to large, padded, field containers.


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