The marula tree has already become a very important alternative crop in South Africa with a great potential for further improvement. There are, however, no accurate records that have been reported on the fruit yield and quality of marula tree in Southern Africa. To utilise the fruit fully, to make proper selections from the wild trees and to develop new selections/cultivars, there is a need to have information on yield potential and fruit quality aspects. The overall objective was to determine the yield potential and to evaluate the fruit quality of different marula selections putting more emphasis on fruit quality parameters such as the fruit mass, size, total soluble solids (TSS), acidity and juice content. Four marula selections were identified during their peak production season(2004/2005/2006/2007) at Schoeman Boerdery (Orchard) between Marble-Hall and Groblersdal in Mpumalanga Province (South Africa). From each of the selections, namely; Pharulani, Toularula and Swarula, five trees were selected randomly and marked, while from the Wild marula only four trees were selected and marked. For the purpose of experimental design, the four selections were regarded as four treatments, and the marked trees per selection as the replicates. All selected trees were more or less the same in size and were in full production. The trees were growing in an orchard with planting distance of 9 m (interspacing) and 4.5 m (intraspacing). To determine yield potential, the number of fruit per square meter per tree was counted on pre-labelled branches on five positions around the tree canopy at three stages of fruit development. Collected data were converted to grams of fruit per square metre. Tree canopy size (CS), expressed as m2, was calculated by using the radius (r) of each canopy in the following formula: CS= (╥.r2) 4. For calculating the yield per tree, the average canopy size was multiplied by the number of fruit counted per m2. Twenty fruits from each labelled marula tree per selection were randomly selected; collected and taken to the Ecophysiology Laboratory at University of Pretoria for fruit quality traits, weight (mass), size, stone mass, peel mass, juice content, Total Soluble Solids (TSS) and Titratable acidity (TA). The yield efficiency/potential for both tree unit and hectare (ha) basis in 2006/2007 season, showed that the Swarula selection had the highest total yield as compared to other selections. Results showed that there was a positive relationship between fruit weight and size, that is, the bigger the weight, the bigger the size and the opposite. Generally, three selections, Swarula, Toularula and Pharulani had a higher fruit mass and size than “wild” marula. Pharulani had the highest seed/stone mass whereas “wild” marula had the lowest seed mass during the 2004/2005 and 2005/2006 fruiting seasons. Pharulani selection had the highest juice mass during both seasons whereas Swarula selection had the lowest juice mass. Results also showed that ‘wild’ marula had the highest TSS/TA ratio during both seasons whereas Pharulani had the lowest TSS/TA ratio. Optimal traits were therefore found in different selections and not in the same selections as envisaged. Copyright
Dissertation (MInst Agrar)--University of Pretoria, 2009.