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Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis): Complete Growing Guide for High Yields

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), the tree of the mulberry family (Moraceae), and its large fruits are a staple food of the South Pacific and other tropical areas. Breadfruit contains considerable amounts of starch and is seldom eaten raw. It may be roasted, baked, boiled, fried, or dried and ground into flour.

In the South Seas, clothes are made from the fibrous inner bark, the wood is used for canoes and furniture, and glue and caulking material are obtained from the milky juice.

African breadfruit – is an edible traditional fruit. Belonging to the Moraceae family, it is related to other exotic fruits like breadnuts, jackfruit, figs, and mulberries.

It is consumed, for example in Nigeria, where it is eaten as a main dish Called Afon in Yoruba, Bafafuta by Hausas and Ukwa in Igbo, bukës in Albanian, hljebno drvo in Bosnian Fruit à pain in French, and Albero del pane in Italian languages

Origin and domestication of Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis)

Breadfruit tree (Artocarpus sp.) has a long domestication history, with a strong geographical movement of cultivars from west to east across the Melanesian and Polynesian islands.

Our results clearly show a decrease in arbuscular mycorrhizas (AMs) along a domestication gradient from wild to recently derived cultivars. African breadfruit (Treculia Africana), native to tropical Africa, is a related species that is less important as a food crop.

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Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) Complete Care Guide

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis): Complete Growing Guide for High Yields

Breadfruit trees use comparatively more energy and nutritional and mineral resources in fruit production compared to other trees that do not invest significant resources in fruit. Insufficient availability of certain minerals and elements can greatly impact fruit set and size at maturity, as well as tree health and vigor.

(1) Breadfruits Light Requirements

Therefore, it is important to monitor and ensure that breadfruit trees have sufficient nutrition. In Hawai‘i, we are used to seeing large, healthy, productive trees growing in the landscape, seemingly without care.

The nutritional needs of trees that are harvested regularly are somewhat higher, as the nutrients are taken away with the fruit need to be replaced. 

(2) Breadfruits Water Requirement

Once planted, breadfruit trees require regular and thorough watering during their establishment period, which is generally six months to a year.

Optimal annual rainfall/irrigation is 59-118 inches (2,000-3,000 mm), but supplemental water may be necessary, especially in the first few years after planting if the dry season is unusually long or the plants show symptoms of stress such as lower-leaf drop or scorching of the outer margins of the leaves.

Before planting the trees in the ground (while it is still in a pot/bag) the tree should be watered in the early morning and checked again in mid-afternoon to ensure the soil has not dried out.

If during the afternoon check, the soil is completely dry, water the plants again in the late afternoon. If the plant is not wilting and does not appear to be suffering from water stress, wait to water it until the following morning.

Best watering practice suggests that the plants should not have wet leaves from manual irrigation during the night because this can promote the growth of disease organisms.

Most breadfruit mortality is due to young plants drying out. Plants should be visibly inspected daily. It’s much easier to see and correct potential problems if you’re looking at the plants regularly than to have larger problems surprise the grower when they are difficult to correct.

Almost all problems start slowly and on a few plants. Vigilant growers are always more successful and suffer far fewer losses than those who simply glance at the plants every day. The best groves will come from well-tended young plants that are carefully grown in their youth by an attentive grower.

(3) Breadfruits Temperature Requirements

Breadfruit has a wide range of adaptability to ecological conditions. It grows best in equatorial lowlands below 600-650 m but is found at elevations up to 1550 m.

It flourishes at 21-32° C and does not yield well where the temperature exceeds 40° or drops to 5° C. Below 5° C, the trees begin to show signs of cold damage-browning, curling, and dying leaves that will die and fall from the tree

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(4) Breadfruits Fertilizer and Manure Requirements

Fruit trees, such as breadfruit, expend large amounts of resources and energy-producing fruit. Healthy trees require healthy soil, which in turn requires proper orchard sanitation, healthy biology, beneficial cover crops, and the addition of amendments and fertilizers.

Prevent nutrient deficiencies and excess stress following fruiting or growing seasons.

Adding fertilizer annually is generally recommended, preferably before the fruiting season, and immediately after any major pruning events. Growers can successfully use organic or conventional (synthetic) fertilizers.

When using conventional fertilizers, a nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K) ratio of about 3-1-2 is recommended. However, testing soil and plant tissue is a more precise method of determining fertilizer needs.

As a cautionary note, some believe that the high N-P-K values (16-16-16) found in some synthetic fertilizers can negatively impact beneficial soil microorganisms. Using time-release, and low N-P-K organic fertilizers reduce nutrient leaching, which often takes place in times of high rainfall.

Organic fertilizer sources are considered to be more supportive of soil microorganisms as well.

A healthy soil biota is imperative for the proper decomposition of organic material and the capture and release of nutrients for plant uptake.

Many growers find it helpful to incorporate soil builders into their fertilization plan and to use organic treatments such as compost tea, biochar, fermented plant juices, etc.

All of these techniques have been used successfully with breadfruit trees and contribute to healthy and diverse soil biota. Other soil builders available from most garden supply companies in Hawai’i include greens and, oyster shells, rock phosphate, crushed calcium carbonate (limestone), etc.

Each of these has a specific purpose and it is usually best to consult an agricultural professional for recommendations.

Read Also: Beans Farming (Phaseolus vulgaris): Complete Growing Guide for High Yields

Breadfruits (Artocarpus altilis) Methods of Propagation

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis): Complete Growing Guide for High Yields
breadfruit vs jackfruit

Propagating breadfruit can be easy. It is also a challenge and that’s what I like about it. I love taking cuttings and making air layers that I get to study and watch take root over the following months.

Will my tinkering succeed? I get so excited when my creations take root.

There are some varieties of breadfruit that have seeds in them. However, planting an ulu by seed has no guarantee that it will be similar to the parent plant. For this reason, most breadfruit trees tend to be propagated by root cutting.

But if you insist on growing breadfruit by seed and have access to a seeded variety, here is the process. 

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis): Complete Growing Guide for High Yields
Jackfruit

The seeds of a breadfruit tree do not stay viable for long, so it is important to plant them soon after harvest. Ensure that you have at least 50% shade for the breadfruit to succeed in germination. Young breadfruit trees love to start up in the shade.

Take the fresh seed from the root and plant it in a sandy, well-draining potting mix. Keep it in the shade and soil moist until it begins to sprout. As it reaches 10”-12” in height, you can begin to slowly harden off the baby tree by slowly introducing it to more sunlight for 2 weeks.

It is said that the seeded varieties grow best in Coraline limestone soils of Micronesia whereas the seedless varieties do best on the sandy coral soils that are more regularly occurring throughout the South Pacific and Hawai’i.

Air layering (or marcotting) involves cutting partway into a stem or branch and packing the area with a moist medium to stimulate root formation so that the stem or branch can be removed and grown as an independent plant.

Read Also: How to know the Best Breed of Fish to Raise

Breadfruits (Artocarpus altilis) Problems, Causes, Control and Preventive Measures

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis): Complete Growing Guide for High Yields

Most breadfruit issues start when plants are young and are related to incorrect cultural care. If soil is poor, the root system will not develop properly, limiting the plant’s ability to gather water and nutrients as well as support itself.

Young plants that dry out may die and need to be monitored daily to prevent such losses. The plants need to be installed in the ground in holes at least 15 inches (38 cm.) deep and 3 feet (1 m.) wide.

Spacing is very important to prevent fungal diseases. Trees should be at least 25 feet (7.5 m) apart. Pruning after the tree is 4 years old to develop a strong leader and well-spaced branches are recommended but not necessary in some varieties.

Lack of fruits is common trouble growing breadfruit. Add about 4.4 lbs. (2 kg.) of high phosphorus fertilizer per tree annually to increase blooms and fruits.

Causes of Breadfruit Disease

If all cultural conditions are not satisfied and adequate care is given but there are still breadfruit complications, look to disease or insects. The most common pests are unlikely to cause significant damage. These are mealybugs, scale, and aphids.

Use horticultural oil such as neem several times during the growing season, once before flowering and again just as flowers open. Soft rot may be a fungal issue. Apply two sprays of Bordeaux mixture one month apart.

The copper fungicide can also help with root rot and other fungal issues.

In wild settings, set up a barrier to prevent grazing animals from eating the fruit and foliage. Breadfruit is considered to be a fairly easy plant to grow in zones that are suitable for it. There are even some varieties with moderate cold tolerance so growers in colder zones can give it a try.

Control of Breadfruits

Breadfruit is relatively disease and pest-free with most problems occurring regionally. The most common widespread problems include whitefly, scale, mealy bugs, Cercospora leaf spot, and fruit rots caused by Phytophthora, Colletotrichum (anthracnose), and Rhizopus.

The best way to deal with fruit rots is to remove affected fruits from the tree and not allow fruits to ripen on the tree or rot on the ground. Breadfruit is also a fruit fly host which currently limits the export potential of fresh fruits.

Phellinus noxius, a root rot, can be a serious problem, especially when trees are planted in areas of recently cleared forest

Preventive Methods for Breadfruits

Maintains the desired size and shape. Pruning a breadfruit tree should be done every year, beginning after the trees are two or three years old. The ideal time for pruning breadfruit is after completion of harvest, but before vigorous new growth begins.

Cutting back breadfruit is easiest when the tree is no more than 20 to 25 feet (6-7 m.), and many gardeners prefer to limit the size to 15 to 18 feet (4-6 m.). Use a pruning saw, telescoping pruner, or extendable pole pruner to keep the tree at a harvestable height.

If the tree is large, consider hiring a professional arborist, as pruning a large tree is difficult and accidents are more likely to occur. If this isn’t possible, take the time to learn safe pruning techniques before you begin.

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Breadfruit Maturity, Harvesting, and Storage

Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis): Complete Growing Guide for High Yields

How can you know your breadfruit is matured enough for harvesting and what are the procedures involved when storing your breadfruit after harvesting?

It is important to understand how to best cultivate breadfruit trees to maximize their potential for health and production.

Fortunately, breadfruit is a very hearty tree by nature and requires fewer resources than other crops, and is a relatively maintenance-free tree.

Learning about the best practices for tree care improves the probability of greater fruit yield and a longer life for your tree, and provides the knowledge needed to produce more healthy plants.

Breadfruit trees grow from 9 to 18 meters (30 to 60 ft) tall. They generally begin bearing fruit after about three years and continue to bear fruit for over 50 years. 

The trees may be planted by taking young shoots or root suckers that come up around older trees.

Young breadfruit trees need protection from the hot sun and general management and weed control. Later they need sunshine and grow best in full sunlight.

Harvesting

Breadfruit may be eaten at different stages of maturity. Most commonly, it is eaten at the mature green (hard) stage and mature ripe (soft) stage. Half-ripe and ripe breadfruits are specialties in some regions.

Breadfruit can be ripened by piercing the core and inserting either saltwater, the rotting petiole of Alocasia taro, or already ripened breadfruit. It can also be ripened by wrapping it in old clothes and covering it with leaves overnight or for a few days.

Storage

Drying: Breadfruit can be preserved by drying, fermenting, or freezing. Breadfruit pieces can be dried in the sun, in a slow oven (50˚C or 120˚F), or a dehydrator. When well dried and cool, seal it in plastic bags to keep out moisture. Dried breadfruit is excellent in soups and stews.

Another way of drying breadfruit is to cook it first, then mash it into a paste. Dry the paste in the sun and store it in airtight containers. Breadfruit paste prepared from seeded breadfruit is now rarely made, but it is a tasty sweet snack.

Making flour: To make breadfruit flour, pound dried breadfruit, or grind it if a grinder is available. Sift and repeat. Store the flour in an airtight jar. It can be used instead of wheat flour in many recipes.

Fermenting: Fermented breadfruit is still popular in parts of the Pacific. In traditional methods, breadfruit may be fermented by peeling, coring, and cutting up the fruit and burying it in pits lined with banana or breadfruit leaves, which are then covered with more leaves, sacks, earth, and stones.

In some methods, the breadfruit is first soaked in seawater. Today, breadfruit is usually fermented by placing the peeled fruits in an air-tight container, e.g. a plastic container.

Once the breadfruit is fermented, which takes about two to three months, it may be used in several recipes.

To get rid of the strong fermented taste, the dough is rinsed with clean water before being kneaded and mixed with other ingredients such as coconut cream, grated coconut, or ripe mashed banana.

Freezing: Freezing breadfruit changes the taste and texture, but still preserves it well for some recipes.

Frozen, raw breadfruit can be lightly stir-fried, or boiled and mashed(with some fish) to make tasty breadfruit patties that are then grilled or fried.

Frozen, cooked breadfruit can be reheated over steam or used in stews or soups.

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Benadine Nonye

An Agric. Consultant & a Blogger - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education... Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4ProfitsTV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: benadinenonye.

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