By Joshua Kato
Harvesting of orange fruits was done throughout the year, with a major peak period running from September to December. Once picked from the tree, the fruits are packed in polythene bags for pricing and transportation to various destinations for distribution. Some of the harvested fruits are sold immediately after harvest; while the rest are stored in mud huts with grass-thatched roofs, with or without grass on the floor.
Some losses arising from rotting are experienced where fruits are kept in farm storage for a number of days. This specifically happens in situations where traders give the impression that they prefer fruits that had spent some time in farm storage because the peel would develop some resistance to breakage and, thus minimize damage during transportation.
- Budded or grafted plants start producing fruits at about 2-3 years from planting.
- Full productivity is reached in about 10 years.
- Oranges stay on the tree from 6 to 9 months depending on the variety and climate conditions.
- Maturity is indicated by color change to slightly yellowish.
- Harvest citrus fruits by clipping or pulling from the tree.
- The use of picking bags or baskets is recommended to collect the fruit and to prevent contact with the ground to reduce lowered quality.
- The average yield in Uganda is 10-12 tons/ha/year.
- With good management, one can get 40 tons/ha/year.
- One tree can produce 2 sacks (90-130kg)/tree per season
Oranges are ready for harvesting when the fruits change color from natural green to slightly yellowish color.
To harvest, clip or pull the fruit gently from the tree using a basket to collect. The maturity period of oranges varies largely depending on the variety and method of propagation (whether the crops are grafted or raised using seeds). The grafted oranges, e.g. Washington Navel orange, start bearing fruit after about 3 years from planting.
Maturity of fruits is indicated by the color change from green to slightly-yellowish. When ready, fruits should be carefully harvested without causing injuries. Avoid shaking of trees to let fruits fall as this causes bruises leading to disease infection at storage and transportation. Under smallholder systems, mature fruits are always hand-picked mainly by women and children who form the majority of the farm labor force in Africa.