Origin and distribution
Loquat belongs to the family Rosaceae, it is also called as Japanese medlar and Nispero. It is a native of China and Japan. It has been cultivated in Japan over thousand years. Chinese immigrants are presumed to have carried loquat to Hawaii (USA).
Now it is commercially cultivated in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. It was introduced to India under the name “Japanese medlar.” Its vernacular names are Lokat, Loquat phal, Lakota, Lakkotta palam, Lakkote hannu, Lataku. Its commercial cultivation is mostly confined to Uttar Pradesh (Saharanpur, Dehra Dun, Muzzafarnagar, Meerut, Farrukhabad, Kanpur and Barielly), Delhi, Punjab (Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, and Gurdaspur), Himachal Pradesh (Kangra) and some extent to Assam, Maharashtra and the hills of south India.
A medium size evergreen tree, 6-8 m high, with a rounded crown, short trunk, fragrant. The leaves are alternate, simple, 10–25 cm long, dark green, tough and leathery in texture, serrated margin, and densely velvety-hairy below with thick yellow-brown pubescence. Flowering takes place in the autumn and the fruits ripe in late winter.
The flowers are 2 cm in diameter, white, five petals, and produced in stiff-panicles of three to ten,f lowers. The flowers have sweet, aroma that can be smelled from a distance. Loquat fruits, growing in clusters, are oval, rounded or pear-shaped, 3–5 cm long, with a smooth or downy, yellow or orange, sometimes red-blushed skin. The succulent, tangy flesh is white, yellow or orange and sweet to sub-acid or acid, depending on the cultivar. Each fruit contains five ovules, of which one to five matures into large brown seeds.
Nutritional value and uses
Loquat fruits are rich a rich source of calcium, phosphorus, and potassium.Loquat fruit is eaten as dessert. Fruits are used in making jams, jellies, and pies. The Delicious syrup is also prepared from the fruits.
Loquat is highly specific in its climatic requirement. It can be cultivated up to an elevation of 1500 m MSL and grows well in relatively cool and dry sub-tropical areas. It thrives best on light sandy loam soil to heavy clay and even stone soils, but need good drainage. Plants can be propagated by seeds but true to type plants are not obtained. Thus the best method of propagation is cutting, layering, grafting or budding.
The rootstock is grown from seeds of loquat. The seeds are washed and planted in pots soon after removal from the fruits. When the seedlings attained 12-15 cm height and about 1.25 cm in diameter at the base, are suitable for budding or grafting, which is usually done in January- February. The use of loquat seedling rootstock usually results in a comparatively large tree. Cultivar grown on quince rootstock produces a dwarf tree and early fruit bearing character. The grafted tree begins to bear fruit in 2-3 years, as compared to 8-10 years in a seedling tree. Monsoon is the best time for planting.
Planting is done at a distance of 6-8 m in the pits of Exilim size. Pits are left for exposure to sun light for 15-20 days. A dose of 40-50 kg well rotten FYM and 200 g single super phosphate along with aldrin dust (50 g/pit) to ward off termite should be applied. Loquat trees are drought tolerant, but to get quality and higher fruits, regular, frequent irrigations are required, particularly during summers.
Since loquat is a voracious feeder; it needs heavy fertilizer for luxuriant growth and bumper fruiting a dose of 25-30 kg well rotten FYM, 750 g N, 300 g P and 750 g K per year/ tree is required. In autumn, head back half of the shoots which grew in the previous summer to reduce the fruit quality. Mild pruning is done about 5 cm of the shoot by the end of May, just before bud differentiation, also to remove cross branches and thin dense growth to let light into the centre of the tree. Loquat is free from serious pests and diseases. Fruits are ripening start from 90 days after full flower opening. Harvest the fruits, when they are ripe on the trees and pack them in shallow baskets or boxes for transport to the market. Usually, an average yield of 25-30 kg per tree is obtained.
Genetic Resources Management
An accession IC558005 of loquat, collected from Bilaspur is being maintained in the field gene bank. Besides, three cultivars of loquat namely golden yellow, pale yellow, and California advance are being maintained at Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Solan (HP). The improved varieties of loquat grown in other countries are Big Jim, Early Red, Gold Nugget, Mogi, Tanaka, Advance, Benlehr, Champagne, Victory, Vista White, Herd’s Mammoth, improved golden yellow, large round, and Fire Wall.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla