As consumers seek healthy and more diverse food products, the demand for tropical fruit has increased significantly during the last 15 years with an estimated value of production at $18 billion in 2009 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2011). Belonging to the Annonaceae family, the atemoya is an interspecific hybrid between the sugar apple (Annona squamosa) and the cherimoya (Annona cherimola) (Nakasone and Paull, 1998). The sugar apple is indigenous to the highlands of Peru and Ecuador, and the cherimoya is widely distributed throughout tropical South America (Marler et al., 1994). However, the term atemoya has also been used loosely in the literature for Annona hybrids resulting from 1) crosses between custard apple (atemoya × A. reticulata), 2) cherimoya × A. reticulata, and 3) for hybrids in which either A. squamosa or A. cherimola is used interchangeably as male or female parents. In this paper, we use the term “atemoya” as the collective term for all these Annona hybrids.
The atemoya grows well in tropical and subtropical climates from sea level to an elevation of ≈1000 m. It adapts to a wide range of soil types including sandy or heavy soils; however, it does not withstand waterlogged soils particularly when it is grafted onto sugar apple (Crane et al., 2013; Morton, 1987). In Florida orchards, atemoya budwood is usually grafted onto custard apple or sugar apple rootstocks; however, the most commonly used rootstock in Israel is the cherimoya (Campbell and Phillips, 1994; Morton, 1987).
Poor fruit set is the key obstacle for the cultivation of atemoya. The atemoya flowers exhibit protogynous dichogamy (female function precedes male function). This incompatibility problem results in incomplete pollination and the production of malformed fruit (Mossler and Crane, 2012). For this reason, hand pollination is often necessary to achieve profitable yields. Lack of pollinators also limits fruit set. Nitidulid beetles (Carpophilus sp. and Urophorus sp.) are the single most important pollinators of atemoya flowers and other annonaceous crops (Nadel and Peña, 1994). Fruit shape varies from conical to ovate; it has slight to pronounced surface protuberances, green-to greenish-yellow skin and contains 10 to 40 dark brown to black seeds. Fruit pulp is white, smooth textured, sweet with a custard-like consistency (Campbell and Phillips, 1980; Crane et al., 2013). The fruit is high in dietary fiber and vitamin C and can range in weight from 200 to 900 g (Meadows and Oswald, 2012).
There is very little information available on total production area of atemoya worldwide. The largest producer in the United States is Florida, with annual production estimated at 50,000 lb and an average seasonal price of ≈$4.00/lb (Mossler and Crane, 2012). In the United States, small orchards are known to have been established in Hawaii, CA, and Puerto Rico.
Commonly used hybrid cultivars for commercial production include Geffner, Page, African Pride, and Bradley (Crane et al., 2013). Production of fully matured trees of these hybrids is estimated to range from 75 to 200 fruit/year (Crane et al., 2013). However, results from long-term replicated field trials to evaluate these and other hybrids are very limited (Crane et al., 2013). The objective of this study is to evaluate the yield performance and fruit quality traits of six atemoya hybrids grown in an Oxisol typical of the humid tropics.
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