Sapota Cultivation (CHIKU)

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Uploaded on : March 2019


Manikara Zapota is an evergreen tree native to Southern Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. This is commonly referred to as Sapodilla in many countries. It is a long-lived tree that survives only in warm, tropical environments. Sapodila is produced in many countries such as Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Mexico. Each region of the world refers to Zapota with a different name and so is in India too. In India, the fruit or the tree is commonly called as Chikoo or Sapota. This fruit is cultivated widely in Gujarat, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. The cultivation of the Sapota tree in India is majorly done due to the production of fruit, which is famous for its flavour. In many other Countries the Sapota tree is cultivated for the extraction of Chicle gum. Sapota is also called as Chiku or Chikoo in many places if India.


Scope and Importance of Sapota Cultivation


Horticultural crops are considered to be high value cash crops and provide a good income to the farmers. The total fruit production in the country is around 813 lakh tonnes of which the total Sapota production in the country is about 3.87 lakh tonnes. Ballari district of Karnataka is believed to be the largest producer of Sapota (43506 tonnes) in India. The Sapota cultivated in India has a good export market and is mostly exported to United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Canada, Oman, South Africa, Qatar, United States and Singapore. Sapota production in India occupies 8th position among all the fruits. This fruit is now grown in India as a major crop, but there are some problems related to storing the fruits due to its low shelf life. Therefore, in India these are a large scope for further processing, this fruit to produce value added products like jams, jellies, squash, etc. Research is still going on to find better ways to avoid or decrease the wastage of the produce. The new idea of producing different products will be supported by the concerned authorities in different ways, such as financial assistance, improvement of technology, implementation of new equipment and machinery etc. This would create more employment opportunities for the young population of the country and result in a better and stable economy. The exploitation of farmers in marketing their produce can also be reduced by opening their own outlets after manufacture of the new products from the fruits.


Sapota Plant and its Properties


The Sapota plant is upright in structure and is considered to be a slow growing tree. It is an attractive tree and has an extensive root system. The tree develops into a dense, rounded crown like canopy as it ages. Sapota tree is also famous for its rich white gummy latex called the chuckle. In the tropical areas the tree can grow to a height of 100 ft. Different grafted varieties of the Sapota tree are found to have shorter height. The leaves of the Sapota tree are 3-4 inches long and almost 1-2 inches wide. The leaves are glossy, clustered spirally at the top and are arranged alternately. The stomata of the leaves can be found exclusively on the upper part.

The flowers of the Sapota tree are small (almost around 8-12 mm), bell-like in shape. The flowers contain three brown outer sepals and three inner sepals. The diameter of the flower is ⅜ inch. The sepals enclose a pale green to white corolla and 6 stamens with stigma extending beyond the corolla. The tree produces several flushes of flowers throughout the year.

The Sapota fruit is round or egg like in shape. It has an approximate diameter of 2-4 inches. The skin of the fruit is brown in colour and scruffy upon ripening. The flesh within the fruit varies in colour (shades of yellow to brown) for different varieties. The fruit contains high latex content when raw, but it decreases when the fruit ripens. The flesh of the fruit is smooth and granular in texture and has a sweet flavour.


Varieties of Sapota / Cultivars


There are many species of Sapodila found around the world, among which only a few are commercially grown. Some popular varieties of Sapota cultivated in India are:



•  Cultivated in Maharashtra, Gujarat and North Karnataka.

•  Broad, thick leaves and oblong fruits.

•  350-400 fruits per tree.


Cricket ball

•  Grown in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

•  The fruit is large in size, round and sweet with granular pulp.



•  Grown in Tamil Nadu.

•  It is hybrid variety grown out of a cricket ball and oval.

•  Starts bearing in 4 years.

•  Fruits are large, oblong, sweet and fleshy.

•  The weight of the fruit is 125 g and TSS is 18%.



•  Grown in Tamil Nadu.

•  Medium sized tree with oblong fruits.

•  The average weight of the fruits is 125-150 g and TSS is 23%.



•  Famous in Tamil Nadu.

•  Fruits used for table purpose and trees bear profusely.

•  Fruits are medium sized, rich in sugars.

•  Average weight is 80 g and TSS is 23%.



•  Grown in Maharashtra and Gujarat.

•  The weight of the fruit is 400-500 g.



•  Found in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

•  It is a high yielding variety.

•  Fruits are oval or egg shape with thin skin and rich flavour.



•  Variety from Tamil Nadu.

•  Cross breed of cricket ball and Vavivalasa.

•  Bears fruits from 4th year onwards.

•  The fruits are light brown in colour, oblong in shape and sweet to taste.

•  Average yield of fruits per tree is 157 kg annually.


Other varieties found in India are Guthi, Bangalore, Kirtibarathi and PKM (2, 3, 4 and 5) oval, Dhola Diwani, Dwarpudi and Chhatri.


Soil and Climatic Requirements for Growing Chiku


The soil for Sapota cultivation should be well-drained, deep and porous type. Typically, any soil variety can be used for Sapota cultivation, but there should not be any hard pan in the sub soil level. The trees can tolerate salt content in the soil. The soils varieties suitable for Sapota cultivation are deep alluvium, sandy loam and medium black soil. The pH of the soil should be around 6 to 8. Shallow clay type of soil is not suitable for Sapota farming.

Sapota is a tropical fruit and needs warm, humid climate for growth and development. The Sapota trees grow well up to an altitude of 1000 m. Coastal climate is considered much suitable for Sapota cultivation. The minimum average temperature required is about 10 to 38˚C and the annual rainfall should range in between 1250-2500 mm. Higher temperatures (above 43˚C) lead to flower drop. The minimum humidity of the area should be more than 70%.


Land Preparation and Planting for Sapota Farming


The land should be ploughed to a depth of 30-45 cm and properly levelled before planting. Initially, only a distance of 6 x 6 m is maintained between the plants because the plants take longer time period to grow and form the canopy. After the land prepared, pits of dimensions 90 x 90 x 90 cm are dug. These pits are left open for 2-3 weeks, so that they can be exposed to the sun. The top soil and the subsoil dug from the pits should be separately heaped. While filling the pits, the top soil is filled first and then a mixture of subsoil, FYM and super phosphate @ 1 kg are filled. 100 g per pit of lindane powder is added to control termites in the soil.

Planting is done from June to October. Sapota grafts are used for planting. The root ball of the graft should be placed exactly at the centre of the pit. The union of the grafts should always remain above the soil surface (at least 15 cm above the ground). The grafts should be supported by the stalks so as to protect them from strong winds. The area is covered with plastic sheets on the top to protect the young grafts from heat. The polythene strip that was used to support the graft joint has to be removed one month before planting. Sprouts growing below the graft joint should also be removed immediately.


High Density Planting (HDP) of Sapota (SAPODILLA)


The normal plant spacing is 8.5 m to 10 m, but there is a new method of planting called the high density planting (HDP). In High density planting the spacing between the plants is reduced to 5 x 5 m so as to accommodate more plants. Therefore, this way of planting increases the productivity of the farm. High density planting is generally adopted successfully up to 13 years of planting.


Propagation Methods Sapodilla


Air-layering is generally done during the month of June and approach grafting is done before the start of monsoon or during February and March For the process of air-layering, a 1-2 year old, healthy shoot of 45-60 cm length is selected. A circular strip of bark that is 3 cm wide is removed from the shoot. This piece is removed from below the bud on the shoot. Rooting hormones are applied over its portion left on the parent plant. This portion is covered with moist sphagnum moss and packed in a polythene sheet to prevent moisture loss. It takes 4 months for the roots to develop on the portion. The rooted shoot is slowly removed from the parent plant by cutting it 2-3 times over a period of one week. These shoots are grown in the nursery under proper care.

Small seedlings raised in polythene bags approximately 2-3 years old are used for grafting. The height of the seedling at the time of grafting should be 45-60 cm and should also have a diameter of 1 cm. 10-15 year old mother plants are selected for grafting. The lower branches are bent and tied to a peg on the ground. 2 scions of pencil thickness and 1-11 years old are selected for grafting. The seedlings are brought nearer to the branches on the ground. 10-15 cm length from the base of the plant is exposed by making a 5-6 cm long and 0.5 cm wide cut on one side of the plant, thereby exposing the cambium layers. The mother plant is also made a similar cut. The exposed portion of both the plants is tied with a polythene strip and left undisturbed at least 3-4 months. The rooted graft has to be slowly detached from the parent plant.


Manure and Fertilizer Requirements for Sapota Plants


Sapota plants need manure and fertilizers for healthy growth and development. These plants are fertilized twice a year in the months of June and January. Fully grown Sapota trees need 100 kgs of FYM, 10 kg of biomeal and 1 kg of micronutrient mixture. The Sapota trees need a foliar spray of NPK, Mg and Zn during the fruit set period so that the size of the fruit is improved. Application of nitrophoska 8: 12: 24:4 @ 100 g/tree has proved to be beneficial for the growth of Sapota trees.

Other than the above mentioned recommendation for fertilizer application, there are some standard recommendations for fertilizing Sapota trees. 1 year old plant needs 10 kgs of FYM, 0.2 kg of N, 0.2 kg of P and 0.3 kg of K. The annual increase in the manure and fertilizers should be FYM @ 10 kg, N @ 0.2 kg, P @ 0.2 kg and K @ 0.3 kg per tree. From the 6th year onwards the trees require 50 kgs of FYM, 1 kg of N, 1 kg of P and 1.5 kg of K.

All these fertilizers should be supplied to the plants in the months of September and October. The fertilizers are applied at the base of the tree 45 cm away from the trunk up to the leaf drip.


Irrigation Requirements for Sapota Orchard


The plants or trees should be irrigated at an interval of 30 days during the winter season and 15 days during the summer season. A drip irrigation system is considered to be the best way of irrigating the Sapota trees because it saves almost 40% of the water ensures 70-75 % higher income. Generally the farm is incorporated with 2 drippers spaced at 50 cm from the tree during the initial years of growth. After two years of planting 4 drippers are used, they are placed 1 m away from the tree. The discharge rate of the dripper should be 4 litres per hour.

During the graft establishment stage water is supplied immediately after planting, on the third day and after 10 days till it establishes well.

If the basin method of irrigation is used, then the size of the basin should be increased according to the size of the canopy. When using basin irrigation method, the plants are irrigated at an interval of 6-7 days during summer and at 8 to 10 days interval during winter.


Intercultural Operations in Sapota Cultivation


Regular weeding is extremely important in the farm area, especially when the Sapota plants are young. A pre-emergence spray is used every 10 -12 months to control the weeds.

The Sapota farming area is used for growing legumes and other short duration crops during the pre bearing period. These intercrops are raised for generating more income and fixing the nitrogen levels in the soil. The Sapota farms are intercropped with vegetable crops like tomato, cabbage, cauliflower, French beans etc.

The orchard or farm area is protected from strong winds by planting tall and thick trees on the windward direction or on all sides of the farm. Supporting the plants with bamboo and filling the gaps in the field should be done during the early years.

Pruning is done to maintain uniform tree structure or canopy. The central stem of the tree should be strong so as to have a balanced distribution of branches. Pruning is not done every year. The growth on the tree below the graft joint during the early years of growth is removed. Overcrowded branches of mature trees are removed to facilitate air circulation.


Disease and Pest Management of Sapota


The common pests found on fruit trees or Sapota trees are leaf Webber, hairy caterpillars, bud worm, stem borer, scale insects, mealy bug, lead minor, fruit borer etc. The diseases that infect the Sapota plants are sooty mould, leaf spot, anthracnose, base rot, flattened branches etc. Maintaining proper sanitation in the farm area is the first most important step for preventing the occurrence of disease and pest. When the trees are badly affected then chemicals like carbaryl, Malathion, dimithods, bavistin kuman. L etc are sprayed.


Harvesting and Yield of Sapota Fruits


The physiological maturity of the fruit is indicated by the shedding of brown scaly scurf from the skin. The fruits turn corky brown in colour with a tinge of yellow when they reach the harvest stage. When no green colour tissue is observed on the fruit, then it is clearly understood that the fruits are ready for harvest. Harvesting is mainly done during the months of March-June from rain-fed area Sapota farms. If the region is irrigated, then the harvest is obtained during September, October and December.

The tree starts bearing fruits from the third year of planting, but commercial yield is obtained only after the 7th year. The time taken by the Sapota tree to reach fruit maturity stage from the flowering stage is approximately 4-6 months.

The fruits are hand -picked carefully or harvested using a special harvester having a round ring with a net bag attached to a long bamboo stick.

The Sapota tree flowers and fruits throughout the year and the yield from the tree increases gradually every subsequent year. The annual yield is 250 fruits per plant (4-5 years), 800 fruits per plant (6-7 years), 1500-2000 fruits per plant (8-20 years) and 2500-3000 years (above 25 years).

High density planting of Sapota produces 4 tonnes per acre in the 5th year of planting and 6 tonnes per acre in the 7th year. The yield from the trees stabilizes during 7-15 years. It is important to remember that the yield depends on the variety being cultivated, but the average yield from a normal farm is 20-25 tonnes per hectare in one year.


Post Harvest Management


The fruits obtained from the farm are graded based on the size and shape of the fruits. The general categories for grading are large, medium and small.

The Sapota fruit is highly perishable and can only be stored for 7-8 days under ordinary conditions after harvest. The storage life of the fruits is increased to 25 days by storing them at a temperature of 20˚C. 5-10% of carbon dioxide is added to the atmosphere and ethylene is removed to increase the storage life. Another way of increasing the storage life of the fruits before packing them is to dip the fruits in GA (300 ppm) and Bavistin (1000 ppm). The Sapota fruit is a climacteric fruit, so it is ripened artificially. The fruits are treated with 1000 ppm of Ethephon at 20-25˚C to ripen them and store them for 5 weeks. To preserve the ripened fruits for 6 weeks, they are stored at much lower temperatures of around 2-3˚c with a relative humidity of 90-95%.

The fruits are packed in cardboard boxes that are padded with rice straw and ethylene absorbents for long distance markets. The fruits for the local markets are packed in bamboo baskets that are lined with banana leaves and covered with nets. Wooden containers are also used for carrying the fruits to the urban markets.


Loans and Subsidies for Sapota Cultivation in India


NABARD in association with various banks provides loans and subsidies to the farmers for the purpose of farming. The loan and subsidies are provided on the basis of the size of the project the region of the farm.

The National Horticulture Board (NHB) also provides assistance to the farmers through various schemes depending on the region or state. It is advisable to contact the concerned organisation to avail proper assistance for undertaking Sapota farming business


Cost and Profit Analysis/Economics of Sapota Cultivation


The values presented here may vary slightly from the original because of differences in the region of cultivation and the availability of materials. The climate and soil of the region are important factors that determine some components of investment like irrigation and fertilizers. The production from a rainfed farm and irrigated farm would also be different.

Assumptions of Sapota Cultivation:

Charge of labour per day: Rs 300.

Cost of Sapota grafts: Rs 30 each.

No of grafts: 130 per hectare with normal spacing.


Material and Labour

Investment in
Rs Year 1

Investment in
Rs Year 5

Planting material (grafts)


Farm yard manure



Fertilizers (NPK)



3 litres of plant protection chemicals



Human labour (land preparation, planting, maintenance, weeding, intercropping, pruning and training)



Installation of drip irrigation charges



Fencing around the farm



Mulching material for the farm





Other miscellaneous charges


Total investment




The annual yield from the farm on the 5th year would be: 100 quintals (approx.).

Sale price of Sapota fruit: Rs 50 per Kg.

The income from the farm after 5 years: (total yield x price per unit).

(100 x 100 x 50) = Rs 5, 00,000.

The profit from the farm: (total income – total investment during maintenance).

(Rs 5, 00,000 – Rs 1, 01,000) = Rs 3, 99,000.

Other Details About Investment of Sapota Cultivation

The no. of plants accommodated per hectare may vary depending on the variety/cultivar of the Sapota plant. Therefore, the yield from the farm also varies depending on the type of cultivar and the yield mentioned here is considered as average yield. The farm also generates extra income through intercrops.

There could be other charges like the land cost, transportation, electricity, packing etc that are exclusively dependent on the type of the produce and management techniques. While the original deployment of the project all these charges have to be considered.


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TIMEIS Project