Johann du Preez is the general manager of Bavaria Fruit Estates in Hoedspruit, Limpopo. He has over 30 years’ experience as a mango farmer. In a recent interview, he emphasized the need to produce a consistent harvest, rather than a bumper harvest one year, but with inevitably smaller fruit, and a small harvest with larger fruit the following season. This is a particular problem with the mango, which is an alternate-bearing tree.
“You can leave mangoes to follow their own natural cycle with minimal interference, and still get a crop. But with profit margins being so narrow, it’s crucial to get the best crop and a consistent yield. This is why I constantly try to improve the crop,” he said. “Inconsistency makes marketing fruit more difficult. Markets want to know what they’re getting and where it fits into their marketing plan. So it’s better to get a similar yield and the same-sized fruit year after year.”
The key to managing mangoes, explains Du Preez, lies in understanding them. “We’re farming a tropical crop in a subtropical environment, so tree and environmental manipulation is necessary.”
Because mangoes are terminal-bearing, the fruit is borne only on new growth. “This means waiting for new branches to sprout and harden before flowering. But new branches sprout only after harvesting, and all the fruit must be harvested. Even with a big harvest on a late cultivar such as Keitt or Brookes and all the branches bearing fruit, everything must be picked before we can prune and get new growth.”