Developing jujube (Ziziphus jujube Mill) or Chinese date as an alternative fruit tree crop to improve sustainability of small farmers in Mississippi

Project Overview

OS13-069
Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2013: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Ramon Arancibia
University of Missouri Extension

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Fruits: general tree fruits

Practices

  • Crop Production: tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Abstract:

    The purpose of this project was to investigate the performance of jujube during establishment (2 year) in on-farm studies in Mississippi. Jujube has been reported to have no significant incidence of pests and diseases, so it was thought to be a good crop for sustainable/organic production in Mississippi. However, it is practically an unknown fruit to consumers in the U.S. and there is no information about establishment and production in Mississippi. Four cultivars, ‘Sherwood’, ‘Sugarcane’, ‘GA866’, and ‘So’ were selected for establishment at Cherry Creek Orchard in Pontotoc Co., MS in 2014. Trees were trellised and drip irrigated, and were monitored for growth, pest, diseases, flowering and fruit yield. Also, a taste and acceptance evaluation was conducted in Mississippi and Virginia. Growth for 2 year from planting in the field was about 140 cm (over 4 feet) average for ‘Sherwood’, ‘GA866’ and ‘So’. Minimal late season incidence of diseases and leaf feeding by insects were observed in both years. Diseases were identified as Cercospora, Phoma and Colletotrichum spp. Root knot, reniform and other nematodes were detected in low amounts; however, the importance of these nematodes could not be established because there are no thresholds for Jujube. Poor fruit set in the second year raised concerns from the participating farmer about reliable production under Mississippi conditions. Therefore, data from more years are necessary to determine more accurate performance. In addition, taste trials ranked fresh fruit as 3.3 and dry fruit as 3.9 in a scale of 1 to 5, being 5 liked very much, so it may have mainly a niche market for ethnic groups with a particular interest for the fruit. The generated information was presented to stakeholders at the Northeast Mississippi Fruit and Vegetable Farmers Association and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group annual meeting. Although there was interest in learning about jujube, it was difficult for farmers to consider the crop without more years of data.

    Introduction

    With the exception of blueberries, production of fruits and berries in the south is difficult because the climate is not favorable for most of the consumer preferred fruit crops. Raspberries, blackberries, peaches, apples, and backyard plums are grown in the south, but the insect and disease pressure makes their production unsustainable. Production of high quality fruits in Mississippi and the south that are appealing to consumers requires rigorous spray programs to reduce pest and disease incidence. This makes the production system dependable of chemical pesticides which are detrimental for the environment. In addition, pesticides are ineffective to some diseases and the infection may reduce production, quality and in some cases can kill branches or the whole tree. This obligates the farmer to incur in costly replacement of those infected trees and/or shortening of the orchard productivity and life span (Westwood, 1993). Therefore, productivity of the orchard and the sustainability of the production system are compromised affecting the livelihood of the farmer.

    Sustainability is based on diversity in the production system as a whole and Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba Mill) appears to have potential for production in Mississippi and the south. The Hypothesis is that jujube may be an excellent alternative crop for sustainable/organic production systems in the southern region because it seems to have little or no significant incidence of pests and diseases in the U.S. (Gilman and Watson, 2011; Yao, 2012). Therefore. It has the potential to increase sustainability in a fruit production system. However, Jujube is practically an unknown fruit to consumers and there is no information about establishment and production in Mississippi. Similarly, there is no information on potential pest and diseases that might be affecting the crop in Mississippi.

    Jujube or Chinese date is a deciduous tree with an open irregular form. The tree can be formed as a single trunk and can reach 15 to 35 feet in height with 10 to 30 feet in diameter. It has four types of shoots: primary (extension) shoot, secondary shoots (side branches), mother bearing shoots (fruiting spur), and fruiting shoot. It blooms in the spring with small clusters of fragrant yellow to white flowers 0.15 to 0.30in. The jujube fruit is a drupe with one pit. It can be oval to round 0.5 to 1in long. Production does better in full sun on any well drained soil, acid or alkaline (Gilman and Watson, 2011; Yao, 2012). Since there is no or little information about jujube establishment and production in Mississippi, research to generate this information is warranted. Performance of different varieties, establishment and formation, pruning, pests and diseases, harvest and storage, and consumer acceptance would be important information necessary to evaluate potential production of this fruit crop in Mississippi and the southern region.

    Project objectives:

    The objectives were:

    1. To evaluate performance during establishment of jujube under sustainable production system in Northeast Mississippi.
    2. To document and evaluate the incidence of potential pests and diseases affecting jujube.
    3. To determine postharvest shelf life and consumer acceptance at the local market.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.