When witnessing the Ncedisa pruning teams in action and hearing them speak about skirting and canopies, one might surmise you are amongst professional builders or car manufacturers. These, however, are a few of the many terms and practices implemented when it comes to the art and science of pruning citrus trees.
The benefits in opting to use Ncedisa pruning teams will enhance the farmer’s production volumes of fruit, improve fruit colour and quality, create higher export opportunities, reinforce efficient pest and disease control, and lower picking costs. The intent is to augment the farmer’s capacity for a better growing environment and improve a low cost, with high output production systems.
One of the most prominent citrus-producing areas is the Eastern Cape where, Ncedisa supports the farmers in the pruning of a variety of sweet orange, lemon and mandarin cultivars. Pruning is done annually on all orchards. The main pruning is done directly after harvest during winter when old worn-out branches and shoots get removed. Following this is the summer pruning in selected orchards where excessive regrowth is controlled.
Ncedisa employs skilled and experienced professionals who believe that hand pruning is the best practice. Manual pruning techniques are favoured because they control and redirect the growth of a plant, which then further stimulates growth shoots and increases the yield. The pruning team uses high-quality pruning saws that are diligently kept sharpened to manually prune fruit trees. The aim of the 10-person team structure, the use of high calibre tools and well-trained uniformed members, is to promote improved accountability and productivity.
Quality and skillful pruning can be achieved through understanding the growth and development of the citrus tree, including the plant’s metabolism and vascular system. The plant’s vascular system consists mainly of the Xylem and Phloem. The Xylem is the carrier of water and nutrients from roots to leaves, where they metabolise into carbohydrates that feed the plant. The Phloem transports the food that has been metabolised by the leaves to other parts of the plant.
Here is where the importance of knowledgeable pruning comes into play. Effective pruning is essential to maintaining a simple branching structure in the tree, allowing for the correct amount of sunlight to enter the tree, which then facilitates the processes of photosynthesis and transpiration. Photosynthesis is the process by which green plants use sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates. The plant reserves these carbohydrates until it is time to produce vegetative growth, which will then flower and produce fruit. Respiration is the process by which stored carbohydrates are converted into energy in plant cells. Transpiration is when water molecules that have been absorbed by the plant are released back into the atmosphere via the leaves.
Sunlight is essential for photosynthesis to take place, and this is where pruning the canopy, otherwise known as the top of the tree, is important. Skilfully pruning the canopy of the tree and creating windows on the side of the tree allows for improved light interception that then encourages the development of flowers, leaves and fruit. Improved light interception enables the tree to deliver more water and growth energy to the fruit, improving volumes, size and internal quality.
Skirting is the removal of branches and limbs which hang down to the ground. This practice plays a vital role in the removal of unwanted growth and dead wood as well as maintaining the tree shape and size throughout the orchards. The benefits of skirt pruning mainly decrease the possibility of fruit hanging on the ground and being exposed to disease, increases better air movement under the tree’s and prevents and damage or impediments to the irrigation systems.
Overall skilled pruning is essential to remove excessive branches and leaves for airflow and light interception to encourages fruit production. Removing unwanted growth and deadwood means nutrients do not get wasted and flow to buds and branches that remain after pruning, that receive more nutrients and grow larger fruits. Maintaining the tree height, shape and size for overall improved production practices is important.
Post pruning Ncedisa offers a mulching service. It is a process to reduce evaporation, maintain even soil temperature, prevent erosion, control weeds and enrich the soil. The main objective whether it is pruning, picking or mulching is to deliver a tailor-made solution to the agricultural sector that will optimise sustainable income for farmers while creating rewarding experiences for the workforce.