An agronomist and Pioneer Bell apple farmer in Nigeria, Akinyemi Oluwagbenga, has called on the government to support and encourage youths to take to farming of the fruit for its economic benefits.
According to him, the apple can also serve as an alternative to imported apples and the country can earn foreign exchange from its exports as it guarantees over 100 percent return on investment.
Akinyemi, who stated this while speaking with Reporters, stressed that it takes about three years for a tree to fruit from the day the seed is planted and that a mature bell apple tree produces two harvests a year with at least 1,000 seeds per harvest.
He said as at 2006 the apple was sold for N5 regardless of the size, but today the small size is N50, the big size N100 while the jumbo is sold for N150 each.
“The tree produces apples two or three times per tree per year. It is prolific and produces about 1,000 apples per tree per harvest as it grows older, that is about 2,000 apples per tree per year. The average yield is 21 to 85 kg per tree.
“As at 2006 the apple was sold for N5 regardless of the size but today the small size is N50, the big size is N100 and the jumbo size is N150 each. Multiply this with what you harvest on a single tree then you know how much you will make.
“Bell apple tree grows vigorously on a range of soil types from sand to heavy clay. It tolerates moderately acid soil, reacts unfavourably to highly alkaline situations,” he added.
Explaining that the fruit comes in three major colours of red, green and cream and with many varieties of each type in Nigeria, he stated that red is the commonest species against the green colour that is scanty while the cream colour may not be readily available now.
Espousing on its medicinal and nutrient values, he added that though it has a sweet-sour taste its shelf life is three to four days and stays between 17 to 19 days on the trees during harvest.
He said presently in Nigeria, it is grown, sold and consumed locally in states like Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa and Delta, among others.
Akinyemi added that it can be planted in homes, parks, gardens and established as apple plantation for commercial purposes.
Speaking on the medicinal value he said a preparation of the root is a remedy for itching, that the back of the root is useful against dysentery.
He also said the juice of the crushed leaves is applied as a lotion and is added to baths, adding that the various parts of the plants are used as remedies for constipation, diabetes, coughs, and headache.