The National Agricultural Research Organisation (Naro) at Kabale zonal centre has released two apple varieties for cultivation in Uganda after 10 years of vigorous research. "The research was mainly conducted in the highland areas of Kigezi which have climate that favours growing of temperate crops. Kachwekano Zonal Agricultural Research and Development Institute, where the research was conducted is located at about 2000 metres above sea level and the lowest temperatures may go up to 100 degrees centigrade in January and July. These favour bud dormancy which prepares the plants to flower upon onset of rains," the head of temperate fruits Mr Gard Turyamureeba said, adding that the varieties were released on May 2, 2010.
Mr Turyamureeba says that the varieties which were released are Anna and Golden Dorset all of which have been Imported from South Africa."These varieties are adapted to highland conditions of Uganda and produce high quality fruits over a two growth cycle per year in Uganda due to the bimodal rainfall pattern. Under good orchard management variety, Anna produces 300 and Golden Dorset produces 400 fruits per tree per year and this makes a farmer earn between Shs150,000 and Shs200,000 per tree per year assuming that the cost of each fruit is sh.500," Mr Turyamureeba says. He says temperate fruit growing is a new agro-enterprise that has been introduced in nutrition and cash incomes adding that an average farmer with 100 apple trees would be able to earn between Shs15m and Shs20m.
He adds that the varieties have been widely tested for performance in highland zones in western and eastern Uganda like in Mt Elgon agro ecological zone which has been a success. Cultivation of apples is currently being promoted by stakeholders in highland zones of Uganda. Naro and Naads are actively involved in scaling the production of these fruits in the country. Currently, the bulk of apples on Ugandan markets are largely from South Africa.
The production of apples in Uganda will go a long way in increasing the income of farmers in Uganda. The current regional market of apples is good and the promotion of apple growing is in the right direction towards modernisation of agriculture and prosperity for all. "Apples can give an income of Shs16m per hectare per year even if the cost price is 100 shillings per fruit. This offers a great opportunity for farmers in highlands of Uganda to raise their household income. Such opportunities have been exploited by farmers in Kabale district and other farmers in Kabarole and Bushenyi are prioritising apple enterprise and prospects are very high in the areas," he says.
Mr Turyamureeba says that the yields of Anna are 17.7t/ha, while Golden Dorset yields are also high at 13.7t/ha at test stations in Kabale. This is a high yield that brings in high returns to investment once fully commercialised in Uganda. The varieties are moderately tolerant to apple powdery mildew and apple scab and with moderate application of fungicides, apples can be economically produced. "To address the need to commercialise apple cultivation in Uganda, two apple cultivars which have wider adaptability and high productivity in Uganda will be promoted to farmers. The institute is also developing both a formal and informal system of multiplication of planting material to cope with the demand of uptake pathways in order to ensure a sustainable supply of high quality planting materials of the released varieties," Mr Turyamureeba says.