Agricultural officer

by Mubangizi Emmanuel
(Kisoro district, kigezi region, Uganda)

I am from here, in the south western part of Uganda, just a few kilometers from Uganda Congo border. Here after, the first harvest of tamarillos, most fruit trees die off. I wish to know how to bring a tamarillos orchard into production.

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Jul 26, 2020
some more details of our place where they do OK
by: Caroline

Back again...
Our soil is sand, many meters deep, old sand dunes, low in nutrients. I cannot even grow sunchokes with success, and nearly everywhere else they are invasive !
My husband is a worm farmer so there is vermicast everywhere in the garden and we had a thriving edible Amanita mushroom population for many years, feeding off old horse manure. But the vermicast has mostly disappeared now. Near the tamarillos, the black organic rich soil is about 5-10cm deep, then its just yellow or white sand.

Like the region of Uganda where the tamarillos seem to be doing well, we have a cold winter, especially when there is snow on the mountains, averaging 12 degrees Celcius in July. July also brings the rain, which varies a lot from drought a year back to weeks of soggyness this year.

This year, the first big harvest of tamarillos came and was about 1kg per tree. From the same fruit off the mother plant, two different kinds of descendant fruit, one tree bears red, and one yellow. The yellow has an exquisite flavor, something reminiscent of granadilla. The red bore much later. The yellow was over three months ago. Sparse red fruit still hung on the red tree two weeks ago.


Jul 26, 2020
I'm out of my depth here
by: Caroline

Thank you so much for this question

I am honored that you even asked me, as you yourself are much more qualified than myself, and I suppose you are looking for accounts of experiences from people who have grown the plants in different areas of the world in a quest for solutions. I'm frankly stymied. There does not appear to be anything obvious as to what ails the plants in Uganda, and I found nothing on google about this problem. However, perhaps something I say will jump out at you, as applicable to your situation.

My googling has shown a lot of conflicting information.

Below I give an example of what I found. A Kenyan farmer produces, sells and uses grafted tamarillo trees for better production, and a ten year life span. This sounds like a 'normal' life span so it makes me think they were dying before their time, before the farmer started grafting. The causes of short life mentioned were drought and nematodes. The grafted trees they sell are resistant to both.

Another article claims tamarillos cannot stand waterlogging. Nematodes are mentioned more than once as a problem. A farmer in Uganda is doing very well. He farms in a dry winter climate, so what I said in the last response about them liking a winter rainfall climate does not seems not to apply, yet wikipedia says they do like the Mediterranean or winter rainfall climate the most, and prefer SUB-tropical areas, which is a lot of South Africa, and perhaps why they do well here.

As you have not mentioned that your farmers see anything wrong with the tree foliage, I wonder if a look at the roots of dying trees would identify the problem ? They are dying before their time and the cause has not been identified. Senescence due to fruiting is not a problem that is mentioned in any of these articles.

Good luck. I hope I've been of some help, but I feel at a loss. It is so unfortunate, as growing tamarillos is held out as a good money spinner with low setup costs, and many people must have invested time and energy in it.

I would love to know more about the symptoms the trees show, their age when they succumb, how much fruit they bore and whether you use the African graft with bitterleaf or not. If you can find the time please let us know of your findings.

thank you

see the google results below


grafted trees in Kenya
resistant to drought and nematodes

Cannot stand waterlogging, other growing conditions, recommend something against nematodes

but this farmer in Uganda is doing well and they have winter drought in his region

Tamarillos do prefer Mediterranean climate, and don't like drought

Jul 26, 2020
Another challenging question !
by: Caroline

Dear Mubangizi Emmanuel,

This is interesting. I have never had a problem with my tamarillo trees its true. However, they are only two and three years old now, and I have not had the urgent need for a good harvest that a farmer would have, so they can just under perform and I don't pay that much heed. I have noticed that the seeds germinate very well and then a lot of the seedlings die. This shows for me a tendency to be affected by fungus.

I was sad to find out that in our climate some of my favourite Northern perennial food plants are annuals, for example rhubarb. The reason is that it doesn't get cold enough in winter and succumbs to root pathogens. Other plants do not like the winter rain.

If tamarillos do well at the Cape, they may come from a part of South America that has winter rains. Many of our locally indigenous winter rainfall plants will get root rot if they are grown in summer rainfall regions and they get heat and rain together.

This is my first wild stab at helping you. Truly I don't know the answer. I am going to do some more research and will get back to you later.


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