Lychee or litchee or litchi, locally known as “litseyas,” is one of the promising fruit crops of the Cordillera. Due to its sporadic distribution, lychee demand a high market price. In Baguio City, lychee fruits cost from P80-100 /kg. Indeed, commercial production is potentially promising.
The lychee is of foreign origin and introduced to the Philippines by an unknown individual. It grows well in specific areas in our country. Introduced plants in Bauko and Bontoc in Mt. Province have grown and produced fruits. Climate in these areas is similar to that of other countries where lychee is grown.
Among the varieties under adaptability trial by Philippine-German Fruit Tree Project at the Bureau of Plant Industry in Baguio City include Bangkok, Groff, Albayalde, Kwai mi, Mauritius, Sinco III, Kaimana and UPLB.
Soil. Lychee is best suited on well-drained loam soil rich in organic matter and with a preferred soil pH of 5.5-6.5. Better shoots and root growth are produced under these conditions.
Climate. High humidity and abundant soil moisture are necessary for lychee cultivation. Lychee is sensitive to wind and poor drainage. It can trive on elevations ranging from 1000 to 1380 meters above sea level (masl).
Temperature. Lychee is adopted to subtropical conditions. In the Philippines, fruiting occurs when flowering season is preceded by cool temperature in December and January. Dry weather during this period promotes this effect.
Rainfall. Lychee is relatively demanding with respect to water. It is generally acknowledge that abundant rainfall or irrigation and the resulting high soil moisture level encourages vegetative flushing. Several authors agree that the optimum rainfall level lies between 1,250 and 1,700 mm.
Propagation. Lychee is propagated through seeds, marcotting (or airlayering), inarching and grafting. Marcotting is commonly practiced as it is simple and gives satisfactory results. Cutting is rarely practiced because of high mortality. The use of seedlings is not advisable for propagation because of variability and the long juvenile period.
Land Preparation. Clear the area. Lay out stakes at desired distances and chosen planting system before digging holes. Holes must be at least 50 cm x 50 cm to accommodate the root system. Before planting, fill holes with compost materials
or dried manure mixed with top soil.
Spacing. For marcots, a spacing of 8 x 12 m between plants is preferred (and more for direct seeding).
Planting. Plat during the rainy season. Ridge to avoid water logging in low-lying areas.
Shading. Newly transplanted seedlings need temporary and partial shading which should be placed in an east-west orientation.
Intercropping. Plant nitrogen-fixing crops like legumes and other vegetables in between trees for earlier harvests. Intercrop during the early years of planting. Avoid soil erosion in any intercropping scheme.
Weeding. Remove weeds regularly around the canopy area to avoid fertilizer competition and to prevent pests from breeding.
Mulching. Use cleared weeds as mulch and fertilizer. Mulch reduces loss of soil moisture, enchances the rate of water penetration into the soil and controls weed growth.
Irrigation. Water young and bearing tree frequently. Insufficient watering causes either sever fruit drop or poor quality of fruits. Irrigation can be done through flood or spot method.
Fertilization. Use farm manure and compost. Lychee requires heavy application of nitrogen-containing fertilizers during the early growth stage. About 23 g NPK per tree is required on the first year. Gradually increase the amount as the plant grows older. At the start of fruiting, apply 70 g NPK per tree. Increase amount as tree grows bigger and as yield increases. At the peak of fruiting, apply 420 g NPK per tree per year with a supplement of Potassium and Phosphorus fertilizers. Use organic instead of inorganic fertilizers.
Fertilizer application depends on soil type. For medium to heavy soil (loam clay), apply half of the annual requirement during the emergence of flower panicles and the other half after fruit set. Light soils (sandy) will need 1/3 of the annual requirement at flower emergence, 1/3 after fruit set and 1/3 two weeks before harvest.
Pruning and Training. Establish shape of the tree during the first 2 years of planting. Prune regularly to control attack of insect pest and disease. Avoid heavy pruning as it induces profuse vegetative growth instead of floral growth.
Special Practice for Lychees
Flower Induction. Smoking and girdling can be practiced. Research can be done to verify and improve such techniques. Lychees ripen when atmospheric temperature is high. It will not improve quality after harvest so fruits should be allowed to ripen properly on the tree.
Harvest fruits if tubercles become flat and smooth or turn bright red. Cut or break entire clusters of fruits. Do not pick individual fruits. Do not harvest when tree is wet. This will cause fruits to spoil during storage. Keep fruits away from sun after harvest to avoid browning of the skin.
Storage. Lychee fruits can be stored for one month under normal conditions (2.2-3.3oC) and with a relative humidity of 80-85%. Freshly harvested fruits, when cooled rapidly and kept at 25oC, will remain excellent for 1-2 months.
Packing. For local market, harvest at full ripeness. For distant markets, harvest before fruits turn red. Fruits should be kept in cool, dry and well-ventilated rooms. When grading and packing. Fruits should be packed closely in shallow baskets or crates line with newspaper or banana leaves. Care should be taken to avoid crushing of fruits and skin damage.
Insect Pests and Diseases
Good farm management involves the proper implementation of sanitation. Use clean tools and materials and disease-free planting materials. Prune infected parts then burn or bury. Use the proper pesticide if pest or disease infection is severe. Better control measures will be established if insect pests and disease are well identified.
Erinose Mite- Use sulfur or dimethoate and spray every 10-14 days before flushing.
Leaf Beetles- Use systemic insecticides.
Leafminers- Spray systemic insecticide before and during flashing.
Fruit, seed and stem borers- Spray systemic insecticides.
Birds and bats- Use nets to catch or hunt them. Create noise to frighten them and use light at night.
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