Mango Growing in Kenya
Training Materials Coordinator - Jan Beniest
Editors - Anne Marie Nyamu and Tony Simons
Table Of Contents
Uses and Food Value 3
Flower Induction 8
Pests and Diseases 9
Mango Fruit Fly 10
Mango Seed Weevil 10
Sanitation of orchard and yard 11
Fruit treatment 11
Powdery Mildew 11
Description of Mango Cultivars 13
Tommy Atkins 42
Van Dyke 43
Further Reading 47
Although the mango tree is not indigenous to Kenya, it has been cultivated in the Coast Province for centuries. Traders in ivory and slaves brought seed into the country during the 14th century. Mango trees were reported in Somalia as early as 1331. The mango is one of the most important fruit crops in the tropical and subtropical lowlands. It is native to India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Malaysia, but can be found growing in more than 60 other countries throughout the world (Salim et al., 2002).
The mango is best adapted to a warm tropical monsoon climate with a pronounced dry season (>3 months) followed by rains. However, information from other countries indicates that crops cultivated for a long time over an extended area show a high degree of diversity due to varied environmental influences. This was likely also true for the mango seedlings first introduced in Kenya which were all polyembryonic. They can be multiplied by seeding and generally produce true-to-type progeny. Some of these are still productive, e.g. along the Tana River, and some of them have been given names which to this day are still valued. Kitoovu, Kimji, Klarabu, Punda and Mayai are of poor quality but better known are cultivars like Apple, Ngowe, Boribo, Batawi and Dodo. Of these, a few have steadily lost ground to a generation of cultivars introduced in the 1970s and 1980s distinguished by greater resistance to anthracnose (Colletotrichum), powdery mildew (Oidium), their very attractive colour and good shelf life.
Uses and Food Value
The mango—because of its attractive appearance and the very pleasant taste of selected cultivars—is claimed to be the most important fruit of the tropics. It has been touted as ‘king of all fruits’ but has also been described as a ‘ball of tow soaked in turpentine and molasses’ by critics! It is one of the most delicious fruits there is, although it has undesirable features including coarse fibrous strands through the flesh and the pungent and turpentine flavours of some cultivars.
Fruits from the scattered mango production areas are mainly consumed locally. During the last 20–30 years, commercial mango production was developed based on locally adapted and newly imported cultivars. This has seen the area under mango cultivation in Kenya rise from 500 ha in 1970 to approximately 15,000 ha in 2000 (source: Annual Report, Ministry of Agriculture, Nairobi). There is a great diversity of mango fruit types which permits considerable manipulation for various purposes and markets: juice, chutney, pickles, jam/jelly, fresh fruit, canned and/or dried fruit etc. Given the multiple products, it is therefore a potential source of foreign exchange for a developing country; it is also a source of employment for a considerable seasonal labour force.
In addition to income opportunities, the mango is noted for combating nutritional disorders. The mango compares favourably in food value with both temperate and tropical fruits. Indeed the fruit contains almost all the known vitamins and many essential minerals. Studies have shown that one mango fruit can provide a large proportion of the daily human requirements of essential minerals, and vitamins (see Table below). The calorific value of mango is mostly derived from the sugars. It is as high as that of grapes and even higher than that of apple, pears or peaches. The protein content is generally a little higher than that of other fruits except the avocado. Mangos are also a fairly good source of thiamine and niacin and contain some calcium and iron.
The mango is a member of the family Anacardiaceae. This family comprises many other valuable trees such as the cashew and the pistachio nut. The genus Mangifera includes 25 species (Mabberly, 1997) with edible fruits such as Mangifera caesia, M. foetida, M. odorata and M. pajang, although M. indica, the mango, is the only species that is grown commercially on a large scale. Worldwide mango cultivation now covers approximately 2.9 million hectares (FAO, 2001) and earns nearly US$ 500 million in export revenues.
There are two races of mango—one from India and the other from Southeast Asia. The Indian race is intolerant of humidity, has flushes of bright red new growth that is subject to powdery mildew and anthracnose and bears mono-embryonic fruit of high colour and regular shape. The Southeast Asian race is tolerant of excess moisture, has pale green or red new growth and resists powdery mildew. Its polyembryonic fruit is pale green and of an elongated kidney shape.
The mango is a deep-rooted, evergreen plant which can develop into huge trees, especially on deep soils. The height and shape varies considerably among seedlings and cultivars. Under optimum climatic conditions, the trees are erect and fast growing and the canopy can either be broad and rounded or more upright. Seedling trees can reach more than 20 m in height while grafted ones are usually half that size. The tree is long-lived with some specimens known to be over 150 years old and still producing fruit! The mature leaves are simple, entire, leathery, dark green and glossy; they are usually pale green or red while young. They are short-pointed, oblong and lanceolate in shape and relatively long and narrow, often measuring more than 30 cm in length and up to 13 cm in width (Salim et al., 2002). New leaves are formed in periodic flushes about two to three times a year.
The greenish-white or pinkish flowers are borne in inflorescences—usually placed terminally on current or previous year’s growth—in large panicles of up to 2000 or more minute flowers. Male flowers usually outnumber the bisexual or perfect flowers.
Generally, flowering in Kenya lasts from about late July to early November, depending mostly on weather conditions. At the coast it is not uncommon to find individual trees flowering as early as February and March. Pollinators are usually flies, rarely bees or nectivorous bats. Pollen cannot be shed in high humidity or rain as this might prevent pollination and fruit setting. Mangos are self-fertile, thus a single tree will produce fruits without cross-pollination.
Mango fruits of the various cultivars differ greatly in shape, size, appearance and internal characteristics. The fruit is a fleshy drupe, varying in size from 2.5 to 30 cm long, may be kidney-shaped, ovate or round and weigh from approximately 200 g to over 2000 g. The leathery skin is waxy and smooth and when ripe entirely pale green or yellow marked with red, depending on the cultivar.
The fruit quality is based on the scarcity of fibre, sweetness and minimal turpentine taste. The flesh of the improved cultivars is peach-like and juicy, of a melting texture and more or less free from fibre. The single, compressed ovoid seed is encased in the white fibrous inner layer of the fruit. The seed is enclosed in a stony endocarp, varying in size/shape with two fleshy cotyledons. Each seed contains either one embryo (the so-called mono-embryonic cultivars) or more than one embryo (the so-called polyembryonic cultivars), producing several seedlings without fertilization. Most of the seedlings will be nucellar seedlings which have originated vegetatively, they are mostly true-to-type and genetically identical with the mother tree. Most Indian cultivars are mono-embryonic, while generally cultivars from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are polyembryonic.