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How to grow plums

1.    Know more about this plant species

Although there are several types of plum trees, they all belong to the genus Prunus. This genus is part of the Rosaceae family, like garden roses and a wide variety of fruits (apple, pear, peach, cherry, strawberry, almond, apricot, blackberry and raspberry). Prunus domestica is the most common species followed by Prunus salicina (Japanese plum). These trees are cultivated to commercialize its fruits which pulp is sweet and juicy with laxative properties. They can be commercialized and consumed fresh or dry. The seeds are also profitable since it can be used to extract an edible oil, highly appreciated also for cosmetic uses. In addition, the fruits are highly demanded to produce liquors, juices and refreshing drinks.

 

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In general, the plum tree does not exceed the 6 m, so it is considered a medium-sized tree. In fact, to facilitate the fruit collection the branches trajectory is interrupted for them to grow closer to the ground. In healthy trees, the young branches can be guided to modify the tree shape for this purpose, because in normal conditions it presents erect branches and a straight trunk. Some wild species can present some thorns, but this is not common.

Image: Alexandra Nosova

It is a deciduous tree, with simple leaves that are sometimes so close together that they form bundles. Observing its flowers, you can tell that they are hermaphroditic, which means that they present functional female and male reproductive structures simultaneously and close to each other. However, most of the varieties belonging to Prunus salicina present an interesting strategy to avoid self-pollination in favour to increase the genetic variability in the further generations. Most varieties of Japanese plum are self-incompatible, which means they can not develop fruits from self-pollinations and require foreign plum to produce fruit.

2.    Advantages of being self-incompatible

When growing Japanese plum trees, different varieties are commonly selected as “female trees” and “male trees”. Those are chosen based on scientific studies that demonstrate the best fruit formations in terms of number, size and physical characteristics mainly related with the pulp quality and flavour. Most of the trees in your crop area will belong to the species selected as “female” while only a few trees will be grown among them with the only propose of being the pollinators. The quality of the fruits that the male tree may form are not taken into account, since the fruits formed in the female trees are the ones that will be collected and intended for commerce. It is not recommended to modify the shape of the male trees letting them grow as tall as possible facilitating the dispersion of the pollen grains after its maturation. For a higher profitability, make sure you evaluate the most convenient varieties taking into account the location of your field and the suitable reproductive varieties.

3.    Edaphoclimatic requirements

Because of the morphology of its roots, which tend to grow superficially, these trees can well tolerate humidity and shallow soils. However, soils without excess humidity will always be preferred. Areas with temperate climate are also favourable for the plum tree to grow. Even if these trees are very adaptable, resisting well low temperatures, sudden temperature changes affect negatively to its growth. Its strong resistance makes easy to grow them without big problems, although a proper fertilization increases the profitability you can obtain. In the SMART Fertilizer Software there is a precise fertilization program for your plum trees crop, based on its location and specific characteristics.

It is also important to consider the water necessity of the trees, which is very low during winter or the rainy season. However, in summer or the dry season, make sure they have constant humidity (as mentioned, avoiding excesses). In this period of the year, 1 or 2 irrigations per week are sufficient.

4.    Yield and profitability

In average, 9 tons of plums can be obtained per hectare. According to the literature, a 4 years old tree can only produce around 150 fruits per year, when a 7 years old tree can generate around 1400 fruits. Not only the age but a correct fertilization of your trees will be key to get the most beneficial harvest. Following the recommendations in the SMART Fertilizer software, a plantation with mature trees, the yield could even over cross the average, which in mature trees is expected to be between 50 to 60 tons per hectare. Do not hesitate to ask any question you may have about this crop and obtaining the maximum benefits by applying the recommendations you can find in the SMART Fertilizer Software.

 

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