Developing jujube (Ziziphus jujube Mill) or Chinese date as an alternative fruit tree crop to improve sustainability of small farmers in Mississippi
Growth, production and pests incidence were evaluate in the first year establishment of four jujube cultivars in Mississippi and Virginia. Trees were pruned by cutting the top at 6 ft or left them to grow wild. Data on growth, fruit set and production was collected. Only two cultivars produced small amounts of fruit. Few stinkbugs were found on trees. Foliar diseases were also detected and identified. Second year establishment and production is expected to generate more valuable information to determine the feasibility of jujube production in Mississippi and consumer acceptance.
The objectives addressed in 2014 were:
- To evaluate performance during establishment of jujube under sustainable production system in Northeast Mississippi.
- To document and evaluate the incidence of potential pests and diseases affecting jujube.
- To determine postharvest shelf life and consumer acceptance at the local market.
To accomplish objective 1), four jujube cultivars, ‘Sherwood’, ‘Sugarcane’, ‘GA866’, and ‘So’, were planted at Cherry Creek Orchard in Pontotoc Co., MS in the spring of 2014. Trees were trellised because of the tall slender shape (Figure 1). Two formation styles are being tested: A) topped at 8ft to maintain reachable harvest height and none-pruned control to compare and determine the natural growth habit of the cultivars. Trees were drip irrigated and weeds were controlled by cultivation and mowing. Data on growth, flowering habit, fruit set, and yield were collected during the season. Cultivars ‘Sherwood’, ‘Sugarcane’, and ‘GA866’ have similar growth habit and height, but ‘So’ is a small tree. All cultivars bloomed in the first year, but only ‘Sugarcane’ and ‘So’ produced small amounts of fruit (Figure 2).
To accomplish objective 2), trees were monitored for insect and diseases. Few stinkbugs, but no significant damage by insects was observed. In the fall, minimal damage by leaf spots was observed. Cercospora sp., Phoma sp, and Colletotrichum sp. were identified. Fruit showed some dark spots, but no fungi were isolated from them.
To accomplish objective 3), a small tasting trial was conducted with participants. The majority ranked the fruit as 3 in a 1 to 5 scale with 1 as poor and 5 as excellent. Main comment was relatively low sweetness. Jujube is consumed mainly in the dried form, so dry fruit will be included in the taste trial next year.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Jujube has the potential to increase diversity and sustainability of small farmers in the Southeast. Since jujube appears to have little or no significant pests and diseases in the US, it may require little management and perhaps be included in organic production systems. This study is expected to test this perceived concept and assist small farmers in the southern region to make informed decision to whether include this fruit crop in their production system or not.
county Extension Director
Mississippi State University
402 C.J. Hardin Jr. Drive
Pontotoc, MS 38863
Office Phone: 6624893910
Mississippi State University
5421 Hwy 145 S
Verona, MS 38879
Office Phone: 6625662201