Custard Apple Farming Project Report (Sitaphal), Profits

Introduction To Custard Apple Farming Project Report

The following information details about Custard Apple Farming Project Report or Sitaphal Cultivation Practices.

Custard Apple is a fruit from a small deciduous, semi-evergreen plant belonging to the Annonaceae family. The tree is mostly found in sub-tropical regions of the world and there are about 2000 plants all over the world that belong to this group. Custard apple is considered to be a native of the West Indies, but it has long been cultivated in Peru and Brazil. This tree is commonly found in the Bahamas and sometimes it is seen growing in the Bermuda and southern Florida. One can find custard apple trees being cultivated in India, South Africa, some regions of South Asia and the Philippines. Custard apple is addressed with different names such as wild-sweetsop, bull’s heart, bullock’s heart or ox heart. This tree is not very attractive in nature but bears fruits with a nice flavor. In India, it is known as ‘Sitaphal’ and it is estimated that around fifty-five thousand hectares of land are dedicated to custard apple cultivation in India. The major custard apple-growing states are Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra, Pradesh, Gujarat, and Tamil Nadu. The popularity of the fruit in the country has contributed to the increase in the area of production and is likely to increase further. The focus is being shifted to cultivate quality fruit for export such that there could be a possibility of higher income. Support from Horticulture Board and other agricultural departments could give a boost to the farmers for increasing the production on their farms.

This Custard Apple Farming Project Report describes the cultivation techniques and requirements; at the end, it describes the investment for farming and the expected profits of Custard apple.

Plant and properties of Custard Apple

The tree is erect and has a trunk of 25-35 cm thickness with a spreading crown. The average height of the tree is in between 4.5 to 10 m. The leaves of the tree smell weird and are deciduous in nature. They have an oblong shape with a length of 10-20 cm and a width of maximum 5 cm. The leaves have conspicuous veins and are arranged alternately on the stem. Flowers of the plant can be found in clusters; they are slender and have rich fragrance. The petals are 2-3 cm long with pale yellow color on the inside having red or purple spots and light green on the outside.

The fruit is 8-16 cm in diameter and looks like a heart. It is lopsided, irregular or oblate having a depression at the base. The skin of the fruit is thin, but rough in texture and turns brownish or yellow when ripe. The inside of the fruit contains a thick creamy granular layer of flesh in the form of juicy segments with a single hard, black and glossy seed. A fibrous central core extends halfway through the fruit and is attached to the stem. A single fruit may contain 50 seeds on an average.

The fruits contain calories, proteins, carbohydrates, calcium, phosphorous, iron, carotene, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, ascorbic acid, nicotinic acid, and moisture.

Custard Apple Tree.
Custard Apple Tree.

Varieties of Custard Apple

The custard apple is generally distinguished by the skin color as yellow-skinned types and brownish skin types. The varieties of custard apples found or cultivated in India are exclusively differentiated on the basis of the agro-climatic conditions of the area where they are grown. Some varieties are:

Red Sitaphal

  • The color of the fruit is purple.
  • Contains too many seeds.
  • The tree develops stone fruits.
  • Seedlings are true to type and very prolific.

Balanagar

  • It is a local variety native to Mahaboobnagar District of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Fruit quality is good.
  • Plenty of pulp.
  • Large fruits that are tuber less.

Washington

  • The color of the fruit is greenish white.
  • The tree has a sparse bearing.

British Guinea

  • Trees bear large fruits that are greenish white in color.
  • Contains a few seeds and has good quality.
  • Fruits don’t spoil even after a week of ripening.

Island Gem

  • It is an Australian variety.
  • The tree bears large fruits.
  • Fruits have a smooth surface and large segments; they are pulpy and delicious.
  • Contains fewer seeds.
  • The bearing is sparse and the fruits are of irregular shape.
  • Can be stored for a week.

Pink’s Mammoth

  • It is also from Australia.
  • Fruits are large, ovoid, pulpy, delicious, greenish pink in color with a smooth surface.
  • The quality is good but bears fewer fruits.
  • The shape of the fruits is irregular.

Atemoya

  • It is a hybrid variety and is produced by the cross of Sitaphal and cherimoya.
  • A height of the tree ranges in between 5 to 6 m.
  • Planting distance is 7 x 7 m.
  • Fruits when ripe are whitish green in color.
  • Flesh is pulpy with acidic flavor.
  • Contains fewer seeds.
  • The fruit quality can be retained for 10 days under normal conditions.
  • The bearing of fruit is erratic.
  • While cultivating this variety, it is expected to plant a custard apple tree for every 8 or 10 Atemoya plants to encourage pollination.
  • Fruits are generally harvested during October to December.

Soil and climatic requirements for growing Custard Apples

Growing Conditions of Custard Apples.
Growing Conditions of Custard Apples.

There is no particular soil for cultivating custard apple because it can flourish in any type of soil like shallow, sandy, clayey loam etc. the best-suited soil is sandy loam soil. The subsoil for custard apple farming should be well-drained like the deep black soil. The plants are ineffective to saline conditions in the soil, but alkalinity, chlorine, improper drainage or marshy-wet lands hamper the growth of the plants and bearing. The subsoil should be at least 1m deep to prevent root rot and ensure better performance. If the topsoil is less than 1 m deep, then the planting should be done on mounds. It is advisable to avoid soil or area where tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, capsicum, and ginger have been grown previously because these soils may have a chance of carrying bacteria causing wilt disease.

The plants need a tropical climate for better performance, but should also have cooler winters. It is expected to grow well on the plains and also on elevations up to 4000 ft. The plant can tolerate a temperature of 27 or 28˚F without getting harmed. Plants need humid climate (around 70 to 80%) for survival and minimum annual rainfall required by the plants is around 50-80 cm. The plants start flowering during the hot, dry climate and bear fruit during the monsoon.

Propagation techniques of Custard Apple Trees

Custard Apple Seeds.
Custard Apple Seeds.

Seeds are commonly used for the propagation of custard apple plants, but there could be other methods like the inarching, budding or grafting for propagating the plants. It is observed that when the seeds are treated for 24 hours with an appropriate solution, they germinate quickly and uniformly. The germination takes 30 days and it can be accelerated by soaking the seeds for 3 days at room temperature. Scarification i.e. breaking the seed coat using baby nail clippers can also be useful for improving the rate of germination. The seeds are grown carefully in a nursery before being transplanted into the main farming area. The seeds should not be planted beyond a depth of ¾ of an inch.

Custard Apple Saplings.
Custard Apple Saplings.

Land preparation and planting forCustard Apple Cultivation

Land should be thoroughly cleared and ploughed before planting the seedlings. Pits of dimensions 60 x 60 x 60 cm are created before the beginning of monsoon and should be filled with FYM, neem cake and single super phosphate. After filling the pits with the required manure, it should be left open for 15 days before planting. The spacing between each pit could be either of the following; 4 x 4 m, 5 x 5 m or 6 x 6 m and it largely depends on the type of soil. It has been observed that spacing of 6 x 4 m with a proper drip irrigation system has provided good growth in the plants and enhanced the fruit bearing. The planting is mainly done during the monsoon.

Read: Container Vegetable Gardening.

Manure and fertilizer requirements of Custard Apple Trees

If the custard apple plants are being rained, then no manures or fertilizers are applied. For having an early harvest or for creating good quality harvest, the following fertilizers could be applied to a completely grown tree:

  • 10 kg of bio meal during planting.
  • Ormichem micronutrient mixture @ 0.250 kg during flowering and another dose of 10: 26: 26 mixture during fruit set.
  • 10 g/l of 8: 12: 24: 4 foliar spray is used twice during fruit set.
  • The plant while bearing season needs 250 g of N, 125 g of potassium and phosphorous.
  • As the plant attains 5 years, it should be fertilized with 450 g of N, P₂O₅, and K₂O.

Irrigation requirement for Custard Apple Orchard

The soil should have uniform moisture content throughout the fruit set and development period such that high yield could be obtained and there would be no problems like fruit splitting. Irrigation is extremely important to have good quality fruit from the plant. Care should be taken such that the salinity in the water doesn’t exceed 800 µS/cm. One hectare of custard apple farm may need 5 megaliters of water during the entire year. When the plant starts flowering, irrigation should be supplied till regular monsoon sets in. Drip system, flood or mist sprinkler systems could be used to improve flowering and fruit setting. Mist sprinkler is a highly preferred irrigation technique because it keeps the temperature low and increases the humidity. If irrigation is provided during fruit development then it improves the size and quality of the fruit.

Pest and disease control measures in Custard Apple Garden

The custard apple plant is considered to be a hardy plant, but even then it suffers due to the pests like mealy bugs, scale insects, fruit boring caterpillars etc. which can be controlled by using neem oil, meenark and other herbal sprays. To protect the fruits from bats, in India farmers cover the fruits with bags or nets.

Common diseases infecting the custard apple plants are leaf spot, anthracnose, black stone, etc. which can be prevented by using disease-resistant cultivars and also by marinating proper farm activities like destroying pruned leaves, removing dried stems, removing infected parts of the plant etc. If the infection is too severe then one can plan to use recommended pesticides and fungicides.

Other than the pest and diseases, there could be some disorders in the fruits of the plant like stone fruits and fruit cracking. After the plant bears fruit, some of the fruits remain small and dry up eventually and these are known as stone fruits. Too many fruits on the plant and high temperatures are the main reasons for stone fruit development. As indicated by the name, the fruits split and become useless for the market; this happens when there is a sudden heavy rainfall or irrigation after a prolonged dry spell. It can be prevented by the uniform distribution of irrigation and by maintaining an adequate moisture level in the soil.

Intercultural practices of Custard Apple

Intercultural practices are a part of agriculture because they help in proper growth of the plant and sometimes generate additional income for the farmers.

Weeding should be done exclusively when the plants are young so as to improve the plant growth. Legumes, peas, beans, and marigold plants are intercropped with custard apple plants to generate extra income and to keep a check on the weeds.

Mulching can be carried out for preventing soil erosion, weed growth control and water loss at the plant base or root system. You can read here about  Types of Mulching.

If the soil is impervious of ill-drained, then careful observation during the first monsoon is essential to avoid stagnation of water near the plants. Farmers should also focus on filling the gaps in the farm as soon as possible.

Some farmers may intend to use growth regulators to enhance the flowering and fruit production. Biocil is diluted and sprayed to achieve better and early flowering in custard apple plants. Similarly, 10 to 20 ppm of NAA is used as a spray to reduce fruit and flower drop. Foliar spray during fruit development improves the fruit size and luster of the fruits.

Dead and diseased parts of the plant should be removed. Pruning of plants should be kept minimal so as to avoid production of wood and maintain a required shape of the plant.

Harvesting and yield of Custard Apple

Custard apple is a seasonal fruit and should only be harvested when it reaches complete maturity. The fruit maturity is known by the change in color of the fruit from green to a different shade. Another indication of maturity in custard apples is known by the display of inner pulp. The fruit should never be picked when it is green in color because later it would develop into inferior quality. The fruits are harvested in late spring or winter (August to October) and it is estimated that a mature tree can produce 75 to 100 pounds (34-45 kg) of fruits annually. After the harvest, short twigs that bore flowers and fruits are shed completely.

Post-harvest management

The fruits should be stored at a temperature of 15 to 20˚C with a relative humidity of about 85 to 90%. The storage area should have low oxygen and ethylene tension with only 10% CO₂ to extend the shelf life of the fruits. Storing the fruits in cold storages or handling, the completely ripened fruits is not advisable because the fruits cannot withstand these practices.

Cost and profit analysis of Custard Apple Cultivation

The estimation for custard apple cultivation on 1 hectare of land is discussed here for reference. The extra charges like transport, electricity, land rentals etc. have not been given here, but they should be planned accordingly during the practical implementation of the project.

Assumptions of Custard Apple Farming Project Report:

The wage of labor per manday: Rs 300.

Cost of planting material: Rs 25 per piece.

Particulars Investment in Rs
Cost of planting material @ 400 seedlings per hectare10,000.00
10 tonnes of FYM20,000.00
200: 100:200 g of NPK fertilizers25,000.00
Plant protection @ 0.26 litres2000.00
Irrigation pipelines, pump and drip system75,000.00
Hired labor charges for intercultural, irrigation an application of plant protection @ 55.61 mandays1,00,098.00
Manual Land preparation @ 2 times10,000.00
Bullock power needed for field layout @ 5 days5000.00
Machine labour @ 5.31 hours8000.00
Harvesting @ 6 labourers for 15 mandays.30,000.00
Total charges 3,01,781.00

Produce from the farm: 10 kgs per plant (in the initial years).

SThe sale price of custard apple fruits: Rs 150 per kg.

Total income from the farm: Rs 6, 00,000.

Profit generated from the initial investment: Rs 2, 98,219.

Apart from this income, farmers also could practice intercropping, which would generate additional 30K to 50K rupees as income to the cultivators.

It is important to understand that the plants initially have low yields, but as they mature the yield from the plants increases which ultimately increase the income in the subsequent years.

Loans and subsidies for Custard Apple Farming

The major states where custard apples are being cultivated have assistance for farming from the local government. So it is advisable to contact the local agriculture department for detailed information about subsidies for farming. Similarly, one can approach The National Horticulture Board (NHB) and NABARD for the subsidies being offered by them to the farmers. It should be clearly noted that the amount of subsidies may vary in different states and the area of land under cultivation.

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