Pg. 1-4 Report on the Chinese Litchi Industry

The litchi originates from China where it has a cultivation history of more than 2000 years. Of all litchi producing countries, China certainly ranks first in the world in terms of planting area, cultivars and total production. The major production regions are the Guangdong, Guangxi, and Fujian provinces. The total production area is over 530,000 ha and an output of 950,000 tons was achieved during the 1999 season. Before 1990, the orchards were generally set up and managed by small-holders, with acreages of less than half a hectare each. However, during the 1990’s, corporations started to invest in bigger litchi plantations. Air layering and grafting are the main propagation methods and the trees were previously planted at wide spacings of about 150 trees per ha. From the 1980’s, plantings of 330-500 trees per ha were established, while small plantings of extra dense orchards containing 1500 trees per ha were also established. These high density plantings require intense fertilisation, irrigation and manipulation practices, the technology transfer for which is conveyed to the farmers by means of a well structured extension service. To combat irregular bearing, horticultural practices are focused on the manipulation of vegetative and reproductive growth by physical and chemical means. Spiral and closed girldling, are practised to promote flower development and fruit set, while growth regulators are commonly applied to regulate flower initiation by discouraging winter flushing. A video regarding these aspects was obtained and the information will be made available to the industry upon translation. Valuable information on the Chinese cultivar profile and its significance to the South African litchi industry was also obtained and conveyed to the Cultivar Development Division of the ITSC.

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