Bactris bactris

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Bactris gasipaes by D.H. MAGGS (Peach Palm) Botany Peach palm is in the same subfamily as coconut and oil palm. Bactris gasipaes is the only species in the genus. The species is a feather palm, forming a clump of stems by suckering from the base. It grows up to 20 m high and 15 cm in diameter. Stems are usually heavilly armed with rings of very sharp, black, 5 cm spines; the outer layer is very hard. Leaves are pinnate. 2.5 m long: leaflets are dark green, smooth, 50 cm long; leaves are deciduous leaving the trunk clean. Flowers are in spikes produced in axils of the lower leaves: monoecious, the females are interspersed among the more numerous males, inflorescences develop into pendant bunches (up to 12 kg) of fruits (up to 300). Fruits are with kernel, shell (endocarp), pulp (mesocarp), skin (pericarp), 2 to 6 cm long: mesocarp orange, rich in vitamin A, nicotinic acid, very starchy. The Peach palm is widely distributed throughout tropical America from Colombia to Costa Rica. It is not known as a wild species in Costa Rica where it is most cultivated. Some of the uses of peach palm are: Fruits eaten after boiling 3 hours in salt water. Staple diet of local population for several months. Canned: halves used with dips at parties: terminal bud of over-tall stems eaten as palm cabbage. (This does not destroy the clump as would be the case with single-stemmed palms.} Palm wine. Outer wood used for carving or where very hard material is required. Climatic requirements The Peach palm requires a strictly tropical climate with a temperature range of 16 to 25C, rainfall up to 2500 mm annually, and an altitude between sea level and 1200 m. Soil requirements Peach palms grow on heavy soils. Genetic diversity The species is known to have been in cultivation for more than 500 years and must have been subjected to considerable selection. Numerous varieties are reported but not described. There are variations in pericarp colour, fruit size, flesh thickness and texture. Seedlessness and spinelessness are in part heritable. Peach palms could possibly be hybridized with Bactris spp. Production season and time of cropping In Costa Rica (10N), the palm flowers at the end of the dry season (March). It ripens from September on, throughout the wet season. Fruit will hang until March, but it is difficult on the older tall stems to harvest individual ripe fruits. Yield potential For a well-grown clump the yield potential is: maximum individual bunch weight 12 kg fruit 180% bunch weight 9.6 kg bunches per stem per year 3 {up to 13 reported) stems per clump 4 total annual production 115 kg equivalent orchard yield 23 tonnes per hectare Market acceptability Its present use in Central America is as a staple food equivalent to a yam or potato. It is sold in the streets as a fast food but there must be reservations as to its acceptance in Australia. Export potential Export potential of the fruit would be as a canned speciality. Cultural details Propagation is by suckers from a mature palm after it has produced four stems. Suckers should have produced roots and be 7 to 8 cm in diameter at the base and 1 to 1.5 m high. The foliage should be cut back and the plant shaded until established. Seedlings fruit at 8 years old. Removal of spines causes excessive bleeding and is said to weaken the palms. Harvesting methods Harvesting is done manually or by gravity. Shaking is also possible. Marketing characteristics The flesh fruit has several weeks shelf life and this could probably be increased by appropriate technology. The processed fruit is sold as ready to eat. Storage characteristics Fruit last several months on the plant. It can be dried after processing and stored for up to 6 months.

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