Can Apples grow in the tropics?

Axel(12b/Sunset H2)February 1, 2009

I was wondering if apples could really be grown in the tropics? Now by tropics I donôt mean Florida, but the real tropics like Central America, or Southern India or even Thailand, and not the tropical highlands either, pretty much at sea level up to maybe 300 meters/1000 feet max. A typical tropical climate consists of a warm dry season and a warm wet season, with temperatures typically above 68F/20C all the time, so there is absolutely zero chill.

I know Dorsett Golden comes out of the Bahamas, but the Bahamas do get occasional cold blasts. Both Anna and Dorsett Golden are known to set multiple crops a year in California, and the quality of these apples is exceptional. But I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that an apple would do well in a truly tropical climate.

I came across this blog from a woman in Jamaica that was actually trying to grow apples from Gala seeds: See The Coconut Chronicles.

Anyone have any thoughts on this? I know applenut has blown out of the window most conventional ideas about apples needing high chill.

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applenut_gw

Axel:

Yes. Dormancy is induced by training the branches horizontal and stripping the leaves by hand to coincide with the onset of the dry season, at which time any irrigation is shut off. This causes the trees to blossom in about six to eight weeks. Chemicals like Dormex have been tried, but the hazard and expense they pose makes them unusable in most locations.

Apples are grown commercially in Honduras, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Egypt. Uganda did a large study in the Kabale region in 2005, and published a 70-page paper on it that you can Google. In Asia the main problem the indigenous farmers face is cheap imports from China crowding out their local market, making it impractical to grow apples even if the climate allows it.

The main issues facing the tropical farmer has been the short shelf life of the low-chill Anna and Dorsett Golden, plus all the disease that a tropic climate can breed on apples. They've tried growing all the commercially popular apples like Jonathan and Red Delicious, which is silly as the quality would be terrible, as they have found out.

This may seem like a hair-brained effort to try, but the rewards can be huge. Africans dream of eating an apple someday, as they represent prosperity to them. In an East African market apples from South Africa sell for a dollar a piece, well out of the range of most people. But a farmer that harvests three hundred apples off his tree can send his kid to University that year. Uganda had focused its efforts on growing apples commercially instead of just subsistance farming, as this is the key to lifting people out of poverty.

I'm convinced the key to success will be in finding the right varieties, which most likely will not be what we would consider a standard low-chill apple. I'm focusing on the disease-resistant and long-keeping varieties like Williams' Pride and Enterprise from the PRI breeding program that don't need cool nights to color up and have shown to be able to tolerate a good deal of heat. Lots of testing will have to be done.

Which presents the problem; first of all getting apples through customs (even with an import permit this can be tricky due to corrupt officials), transported to farmers, educating the farmers on apple culture, and getting starving people to give up some of their worn-out farmland to test a crop that has never been tried there before and not cut them down for firewood before they've bore the first crop.

It will take a miracle of God to make this happen, which is what I'm counting on as I'm shipping 200 trees to Rwanda the end of this month to an island in Lake Kivu. Pray for the mayor of the island, as we are asking him for government land to plant them on. Last I heard last week he had Typhoid fever and was very ill (the things we take for granted in this country). Like I said, it will take a miracle of God- which could happen.

Applenut

    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 11:19PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

why not try to breed low chill apples with the PRI selections? It would seem to me that some breeding is in order.

I have heard from southern floridians that Anna produces only small apples down in Miami. Is that true?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2009 at 11:53PM
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Brato

I live in Grenada a small Island in the Caribbean and there are a few cases where people have planted apples and successfully gotten it to fruit, One important fact that people over look is that apples need another plant because they cross pollinate. I too have grapes and a small apple plant about 4 inches.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 4:26PM
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applenut_gw

Your plant looks good, and will grow rapidly to about two meters this season. I get a lot of emails from people in the tropics who have planted apple seeds and are surprised when they sprout and grow vigorously. However, as a seedling tree it will take a while to fruit, and most likely produce poor quality apples. You can graft a good variety onto it, but usually bud or scionwood is hard to find in these tropic countries.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2012 at 11:29PM
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Brato

Update this is one of my apple plants at 3 months old and it now measures 1 foot

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 11:53AM
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SelfMadeBum

I live in Barbados and this is *fascinating* to me.

Please keep us updated on your progress, Brato.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 5:46AM
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Fascist_Nation(9b)

And a freebie:
"growing apples in the tropics" [pdf]
http://www.kuffelcreek.com/GrowingApples/GrowingApplesTropics.pdf

Here is a link that might be useful: African Apple Nursery

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 2:09PM
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Fascist_Nation(9b)

And a freebie:
"growing apples in the tropics" [pdf]
http://www.kuffelcreek.com/GrowingApples/GrowingApplesTropics.pdf

Here is a link that might be useful: African Apple Nursery

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 3:17PM
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Brato

I have about 10 trees total now, thanks Fascist_Nation I appreciate the information I'll do some reading and experimenting when it comes to care and maintenance. SelfMadeBum I'll update with pics soon

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 12:22AM
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melikeeatplants

This is a good bump, what happened to those 200 trees sent to Rwanda?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 4:16PM
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applenut_gw

They are bearing, but have a typical upright, unproductive growth habit of an apple tree in the tropics that was not trained during growth; long, vertical branches growing tight against the trunk. In order to foster bearing the young trees must be trained by bud notching and pulling the young branches down below horizontal to form fruit buds. Our apple tree nursery in Uganda includes post-harvest training for two years with the purchase of a tree in order to make sure that they are trained correctly for productive growth.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 5:31AM
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Brato

As promised here are the pics and up dates

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 1:51PM
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Brato

at 7 months old 3 feet and a few inches

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 1:54PM
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applenut_gw

You can contrast the Rwanda trees with these in Zambia that have had some rudimentary branch spreading while they grow; these trees are 19 months old.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 3:06PM
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applecrazy

Wow (@Brato) that is a lovely tree. I have some seedling at home. I live in the Caribbean, SAINT LUCIA to be exact. The oldest one grew very slowly and now at five months it is starting to grow rapidly.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2013 at 5:53PM
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foolishpleasure

Apples needs minimum of 400 chill hours just like apricot. So you can not grow apple or apricot or peach. We can not grow Mango or Guava or dates. That is the nature law.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 3:32AM
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applenut_gw

Foolishpleasure, this is not true. The above apple orchards in Zambia and Rwanda get zero chilling hours, as it never gets below 45 degrees in either location.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 6:26AM
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Brato

@ applecrazy you are coming along they take off faster after they have been planted out, give the roots space to really spread. I have mad a video of another one http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nz1iDcIHHqc&lc=-hohSGXBe3MOD_cf1zwNSF3IrViQfF_5FlL1mBu4LKQ
you can check it out

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 12:28AM
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macmanmatty2(8b)

I was given scions from an apple that was found growing and fruiting in puerto rico. I was told that it never goes dormant there. But the scions he were dormant. So it must go dormant in ohio where he's from (it would probably die otherwise). If what he told me is true how does he keep it from getting killed? it must be really low chill or no chill to grow and fruit in puerto rico where the lowest temp is about 60 in the winter. I would think that the first few days above 45 it would try to leaf out then get burned in the cold where he lives in ohio? I have plenty of trees grafted so I will report back on how low chill it really is.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 5:45AM
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applenut_gw

Apples can adapt to the location they are planted in. Anna is an extremely low-chill apple, but Richard Fahey grows in upstate NY and says it acts like a fall apple there, waiting until April to leaf out with all the other trees, while it leafs out in January here. He says it is certainly hardy, but the fruit quality is only so-so. I know Anna is also grown in Ohio. On the other hand, many high-chill apples adapt well in the tropics, one of the most popular being Rome Beauty.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 10:00AM
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kittymoonbeam

Applenut, that's an amazing thing that a man can send his kids to school by simply planting some apple trees. It makes me appreciate my apples even more. Thank you for helping them have a better life through apple planting. I will be thinking good thoughts for those Rwanda trees to prosper.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2013 at 9:00PM
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MrsNichole(11)

Hi,

I'm in Jamaica. I know I won't be able to import any seedlings. Do you know which, if any of the apples that are sold in supermarkets here regularly (red, gala, fuji, globe, pink lady, golden, granny smith) can grow from the seed? Really hoping to be able to grow some apples here even if they're small or not sweet or whatever it would be just for me and my family.

Thanks.

MrsNichole

    Bookmark   May 19, 2013 at 1:57PM
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guaposhutter

hey im andel from Trinidad in the Caribbean, im 20 years old, ever since i was a kid Ive been envious of the fact that colder countries could grow apples and we cant, now that im seeing it is possible, i will like to know what kind can grow from the seedlings itself? we usually have fiji, granny smith, red delicious,gala and golden apples here ^_^

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 10:38AM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

I grow over 800 varieties of apples in a mild Winter California coastal climate with medium chill at night but mild to warn days in Winter. Only Anna and Dorsett golden are true low chill and bloom in January. A good number of varieties are doing well but a small percentage leaf out late or not at all.

So not all apples adapt to low chill conditions. Your best bet is to go with the tried and true ones such as Anna, dorsett golden and Rome beauty.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 11:12AM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

I grow over 800 varieties of apples in a mild Winter California coastal climate with medium chill at night but mild to warn days in Winter. Only Anna and Dorsett golden are true low chill and bloom in January. A good number of varieties are doing well but a small percentage leaf out late or not at all.

So not all apples adapt to low chill conditions. Your best bet is to go with the tried and true ones such as Anna, dorsett golden and Rome beauty.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 11:14AM
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nightnurse21

Hi guys I'm from Barbados and love this thread so please keep it going,for those in the Caribbean that got the apples to sprout and grow what method did you use ?

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 10:11AM
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applenut_gw

Night nurse;

You can Google "Growing Apples in the Tropics".

    Bookmark   October 9, 2013 at 4:04PM
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SpiceIslander

I understand that Trinidad is growing Anna and Dorset Golden successfully. I have a phone number that was published in one of the newspapers a couple of years ago for people to order trees.

Brato, I also live in Grenada and would love to talk to you about your apple trees. I know that there are also a few people here growing strawberries successfully.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2014 at 9:27PM
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Brato

SpiceIslander that's very interesting news, someone has promised to send me some sion wood of Anna and Dorset Golden, If they make good on that promise then I might be growing them here also. And I also grow strawberries and many other exotic fruits.

But if possible can we pursue the option in Trinidad?

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 5:38PM
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vivinreal2

ok.i have read a few post here, I from the Caribbean ,Guyana ,i have a apple tree that is about 3ft tall and I would like to know what good advise you guys can give on the growing methods.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 2:00PM
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kemewe

Hi everyone, I'm in Nigeria and I've been able to sprout five different varieties of apple and they are growing fine but the problem is that I don't even know their names. And i want to ask since they of different varieties will they bear fruits? please your suggestions will be appreciated.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 9:30AM
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elifill(11)

i am living in Grenada at present and have a few trees growing 4 potted and 2 in ground. the in ground ones were slow to grow. i have cut back all but one. one of the trees in a 5 gallon bucket seems have caught something i also think its time to plant it out. 3 trees are in their third year and the other 3 second year. 2 of the 1 year old trees seem to be doing great guess the potting mix i whipped up was good. i have been doing lots of reading these pass few months and now realize the the mistakes i have made. like cutting back/pruning the young trees. so i am going give it a go again with 10 seeds planted, all sprouting hopefully i will get at least 6 to go on to be trees. i will see this trough with luck i hope to get a sweet fruit to eat or a fruit on the sour side to make juice :-)

This post was edited by elifill on Wed, Oct 8, 14 at 20:29

    Bookmark   October 4, 2014 at 9:24PM
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VonCleo

i have grown two apples and they are growing well here in the philippines.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2014 at 10:26PM
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Lala_E(GP, ZA (11))

Hi Kemewe,

Did you sprout them from seed? Unfortunately apple trees grown from seeds don't produce fruit that is exactly like the fruit you in which you found them. The fruit will be a hybrid of the tree it grew on & it's pollinator and may not be good to eat. If you want a particular apple, you need to get a grafted tree or try to source a cutting and graft it onto your seedlings.

I also wanted to post my experience re the quote from a previous poster:

"Apples needs minimum of 400 chill hours just like apricot. So you can not grow apple or apricot or peach. We can not grow Mango or Guava or dates. That is the nature law."

I'm in the Highveld region of South Africa, north of Johannesburg. It's more temperate, not tropical, but it doesn't get extremely cold in winter. We grow a variety of tropical & deciduous fruit successfully. Just amongst my own, my in-laws & my parents' gardens we have apples, bananas, peaches, nectarine, figs, citrus, litchi, mango, avocado, grape, blackberries, raspberries, Cape gooseberries (weed in my garden), pomegranate etc. I'm growing an apricot variety called "Cape Early" for the first time, so I can't vouch for it's fruiting just yet.

We are fortunate in South Africa to have the Agricultural Research Council, which has developed many varieties of fruit for our climate over several decades. I say if you have the time, energy & space, it doesn't hurt to experiment with what you can grow in your area.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2014 at 9:31AM
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Lala_E(GP, ZA (11))

Ps - Applenut, I spent several hours on your blog last week reading about the apple nurseries in equatorial Africa. You are doing The Lord's work. Someone should film a documentary about it, starting from your orchard in the US to the little farms in Africa.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2014 at 9:50AM
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Matt_z6b-7a_Maryland

I wanted to echo that Kuffel Creek has great recommendations for apple varieties suitable for tropical climates:

Here is a link that might be useful: More info here

    Bookmark   October 25, 2014 at 4:44PM
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msdm1914

I plant this apple tree in the summer of this year in Jamaica,hoping to see some flowers soon. This is a graft tree i took with me from the UK.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2014 at 8:35PM
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applenut_gw

This is in Kitwe, Zambia, East Africa. He said that Fuji is doing really well for him also, as is King David. Hunge and Mollie's Delicious also do well there.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2014 at 11:53PM
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elifill(11)

i have a few apple trees growing from seed. those i transplanted into the garden have not done as well as i imagined them to but i am watching and learning. i have 2 plants in 5 gallon buckets these are a year younger but doing much better. have been doing a lot of reading on apple tree growing and have notice that i made many errors with the trees i have growing now. so i have started new seedlings and will put to practice what i have learnt.want to grow my own dessert/table apple and name it :-) could happen ...

This post was edited by elifill on Sat, Nov 22, 14 at 7:17

    Bookmark   November 22, 2014 at 7:12AM
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elifill(11)

my new seedlings. the plan is to grow them as quickly as possible for two years in a five gallon bucket, no pruning, no training,no growth checks,and a strict fertilizer program. after 2 years i plan on using defoliation and restricting/limiting water during the dry season in an effort to induce flowering.my hope is to get trees to flower in their fifth year

    Bookmark   November 22, 2014 at 7:33AM
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Brato

Hey guys I've been off for a while great to see all the new post, my plants are still going strong, oldest would be 3 years in April, I found a link of that apple tree that fruited here in Grenada, link below.

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10151056358078905

I have no flowers yet my largest tree being about 7 feet tall long and whippy. Anyone wishes to contact me can email me at brato_00@hotmail.com pictures coming soon.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2014 at 6:12PM
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Brato

Here's a pic of a plant nearly 3 years old.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Brato

More Pictures I took this morning, I think my plant is way over 7feet tall I used a spade as reference in one of the photos.

1 Like    Bookmark   December 14, 2014 at 8:54AM
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applenut_gw

Brato;

Cut off that side branch near the base by the shovel head, use string to pull the side branches horizontal, Cut the top off at about six feet, strip the leaves off by hand, and when it starts pushing growth, use a hacksaw blade to notch above every side bud that you want a branch to grow from. As they grow out, use toothpicks to push the crotch angle down so you can train them horizontally also; this will control the whippyness.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2014 at 11:42AM
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elifill(11)

Brato,

your tree looks great. i have a 3 trees that are 3years old but they dont look as good. guess i have not been treating them well. after this last flush of leaves i am planing to strip the leaves and do some pruning. have 2 tress that are over a year which are plant in 5 gallon buckets they look more grown and healthy than those in ground.will put up some pics . read that notching is effective after the fourth year of juvenile growth that is if it flower and fruit bud you desire the book was not written for tropical climate so i guess it up to you. i am always willing to experiment so i will do the notching as applenut suggested on the biggest of my 3 year old trees thou it is only 4 feet tall. all the best with your tree

    Bookmark   December 16, 2014 at 5:29AM
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elifill(11)

Brato,

your tree looks great. i have a 3 trees that are 3years old but they dont look as good. guess i have not been treating them well. after this last flush of leaves i am planing to strip the leaves and do some pruning. have 2 tress that are over a year which are plant in 5 gallon buckets they look more grown and healthy than those in ground.will put up some pics . read that notching is effective after the fourth year of juvenile growth that is if it flower and fruit bud you desire the book was not written for tropical climate so i guess it up to you. i am always willing to experiment so i will do the notching as applenut suggested on the biggest of my 3 year old trees thou it is only 4 feet tall. all the best with your tree

    Bookmark   December 16, 2014 at 5:30AM
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