African Journal of Wood Science and Forestry

African Journal of Wood Science and Forestry ISSN 2375-0979 Vol. 9 (6), pp. 001-008, June, 2021. © International Scholars Journals

Full Length Research Paper

Scion and stock diameter size effect on growth and fruit production of Sclerocarya birrea (marula) trees

Simon A. Mng’omba1*, Gudeta W. Sileshi1, Ramni Jamnadass2, Festus K. Akinnifesi1 and Jarret Mhango3

1World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P. O. Box 30798, Lilongwe 3, Malawi.

2World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), P. O. Box 30677-00100, Nairobi, Kenya.

3Mzuzu University, Private Bag 201, Luwinga, Mzuzu 2, Malawi.

Accepted 15 May, 2021


Sclerocarya birrea (marula) is a highly valued fruit tree in southern Africa because of its products which have gained both regional and international markets. However, its fruits have been harvested from the wild with a few provenances being managed on farmland. Grafted marula trees have shown wide variations in scion and rootstock growth (for example, stem diameters), but effects of these variations on tree survival, growth and fruit production have not been evaluated. The objectives of this study were to (1) assess variations in growth of scions and their stocks and (2) evaluate the effect of scion and stock growth differences on overall grafted tree growth, survival, flower and fruit production on farmland, six to eight years after planting. Over 70% of the grafted trees had similar scion and stock diameters, while 24% had thicker (i.e, slow growing) scions than their stocks. Trees with similar scion and stock growth rate had a high flowering percentage (> 40%), but there was also significant fruit abortion during the three years of fruit production. Grafted trees with thicker scions than their stocks produced significantly more (P < 0.05) fruits than the rest. Such trees were also significantly (P < 0.0126, N = 50) taller than the rest. There was a low survival for grafted trees with either thick or thin scions relative to the stock diameters. It can be concluded that unequal growth rate of scion and stock in grafted marula trees has a negative effect on early tree survival and dwarfing characteristics, but this may not reduce fruit yield in the early years. Therefore, scion and stock selection is critical to reduce growth variations which have negative effects on grafted tree growth and fruit productivity.

Key words: Fruit abortion, graft compatibility, phenotypic variations, tree dwarfing.