Pineapple is a widely cultivated fruit crop in the tropics. It is eaten fresh when ripe and also used in making pineapple juice, sauce as well as in the production of wine. The fruit is a rich source of vitamins (A and C) and plenty of sugar. Pineapple is a short stem with small roots underground. The leaves are long and pointed at the tips. They are spiny along the edges in most varieties and form sheaths round the stern at their base.
The fruit which is oval in shape is borne at the top of the plant and carries a small head (crown) which also contains short leaves.
Common local varieties as distinguished by the colour of the fruit pulp include the red, the white and yellow varieties. Introduced varieties include smooth Cavenne, Queen, sugar loaf and Brazil.
METHOD OF PROPAGATING PINEAPPLE
This is mainly by suckers. There are four kinds of suckers :
- Crown suckers : The portion found at the top of the fruit.
- Side sucker or Ratoons : These are formed from the base of the stem.
- Slips : These are small suckers produced on the fruit stem.
- Stumps : These are the main stem left behind after harvesting the fruit. These can be cut and sliced longitudinally and planted usually first in a well prepared nursery before transplanting. However, side suckers are the commonly used planting materials.
CLIMATIC AND SOIL REQUIREMENT FOR PINEAPPLE
Pineapple is cultivated mainly in the wetter tropics except where irrigation is possible. Heavier rains are required during establishment and early fruiting stages. An annual average rainfall of 500 mm is adequate for the crop.
Pineapple does well in most soils provided such soils are rich in manure. Forest soils however provide the best soil for pineaple production.
Land Preparation And Planting of Pineapple
The land is cleared and burnt, where necessary. the farm is then lined out into rows and the planting distances marked out. Planting could be done in double row 1m – 5m between the rows and 1m between the plants. Suckers are planted 15 mm deep on the flat, where there is no threat from erosion or slightly raised beds could be used.
Planting is done usually in the early rains around April to June in the south. Some light shade may be left on the farm as these have been found to give better quality fruits.
MANURING, FERTILIZER REQUIREMENT AND APPLICATION
On fertile soil, fertilizers may not be necessary. But on used land, it is profitable to apply manure or fertilizers. Pineapple responds well to nitrogenous fertilizers. A balanced mixture of N.P.K fertilizers applied by hand very close to the base of the plant will produce good yield.
Weeding is very important in pineapple farm. Clean weeding can be done using the hoe and the farm should not be allowed to grow weedy at any time. This means regular weeding is necessary.
Harvesting, Processing And Storage
Pineapple has two main seasons in the market January to March and May to June. Harvesting is done when the fruit is ripe or shows signs of ripening. A sharp knife or cutlass is used to cut the fruit stalk from the stem. The sizes of the fruits have been found to be affected by spacing. Wider spacing gives larger fruits of about 2.5kg to 6.5kg . However, fruits of about 2kg to 6.5kg in size and cylindrical in shape are preferable.
Pineapple fruits do not store as they soon go bad if not eaten or processed immediately. The fruits are sent to canning industries where they are processed into pineapple juice, wine, sweets, and other products.