From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
a talk by Dr Richard Campbell to the Rare Fruit International, Inc. on June 9, 1999.
A New Mango Reality
Transcribed by Robert Sarnack. Edited by Donna McVicar Cannon.
Scientific Name: Mangifera indica
really my pleasure to be up here talking about mangos, my favorite
subject. There really isn't anything that I do pretty much any day
except talk about mangos anyway. No matter what I try to talk about,
mangos seem to come up."
Why this intriguing title for his
presentation; what is 'A New Mango Reality?' Dr. Campbell admits that
some people are confused by the concept, that they think it's "a little
bit scary, a little ominous, maybe a little bit pretentious-sounding."
But he feels that "the time is ripe" for the changes that must be made
in the way mangos are grown in South Florida. In his work as Curator of
Tropical Fruit at Fairchild Tropical Garden's Tropical Fruit Program,
he has been growing mangos with a different mindset than the
" ... June is the best month in the world.
June in South Florida is what it's all about. It's starting to get hot,
the mosquitoes are coming out and the mangos are ripening. Nothing gets
any better than this ... Historically, (what) we thought about mangos
(is that) mangos are the big monsters of the tropics ... that's really
what a lot of people thought about mangos, big, giant, overgrown
things." He showed a slide of an immense 60-foot mango, planted in a
20-foot hole on Grand Cayman.
"This (next photograph) is a
'Kent' mango growing in the rock of Grand Cayman. It's wonderful to
have a giant landscape tree like that." His next slides demonstrated
the pitfalls of huge, older, traditionally-planted 'Haden' mangos: "
...If you drive around town right now ... big 'Haden' trees are
(fruiting) everywhere, and the problem is you've got these giant trees
(and) you lose so much of the fruit. They fall, the squirrels get them,
the parrots get them. We have, at the Research Center at Fairchild
Tropical Garden, Indian hornbills that fly in every time during mango
season and eat mangos. They eat them half size, whole."
trees "are wonderful for shade" but the waste of so much of the crop
has caused new practices and ideas about mango growing to take shape.
Richard wants "to open up mango growing to people who couldn't do it.
Zero lot line, small property owners, people who want to grow plants in
containers. There are a lot of different ways that we're talking about
growing mangos. We're really to this point now where you can make trees
like this (the tree the slide displayed) ... a beautiful little, dense
tree growing in our collection about six feet tall. Wonderful little
thing ... this is really what we're looking at, this kind of a tree.
This is what I want to talk to you about. How are we coming up to this
" ... I
want to talk a little bit about the cultivars that are opening up some
of this new frontier for us in mango development ... We do have
size-controlled or small stature mango trees ... (but) we are not to
the point of having dwarf trees like they have in apples and in other
crops. But we're getting closer. We have some mangos that you can
maintain small, they're genetically small anyway and by doing some
other techniques you can hold their size."
A South Florida
native, son of esteemed fruit specialist Dr. Carl Campbell, Richard is
especially enjoying his work with mangos as a professional, and as a
passionate lover of mangos, " ... It's been such a wonderful thing to
be able to work with ... (the cultivar 'Cogshall' ) ... because I ate
this as a kid all the time ... ('Cogshall') was selected on Pine Island
in the '40s and it never became a big commercial mango. It was
beautiful, it produced well, it was small, it was manageable, it was
disease resistant, but it was soft. It's a soft-fleshed mango. When it
ripens, it has very supple flesh and you can't really store it very
well, it doesn't ship well. It does store okay but it'll get bruised
quite easily. So it never became a commercial mango cultivar. But it's
perfect for a homeowner because this mango is about a pound pretty much
on the tree, it's a mid-season mango that ripens over about a month and
a half, two month period. The flavor is excellent, the color is good,
production is also high and the other wonderful thing about it is the
tree is quite small."
He showed a five-year-old 'Cogshall' which
is producing a "decent harvest ... up to 30 or 40 pounds of fruit ...
all the fruit hang down low and to me that's really nice." The mangos
on a 'Cogshall' "just glow like jewels on the tree as they ripen over
the season." All in all, a "very good cultivar for this situation."
small-stature cultivar he likes for homeowners is the 'Fairchild'
mango, selected in the Canal Zone a long time ago. "We can't find much
history on it ... (but) we believe it was named in honor of David
Fairchild's son, Graham Fairchild, who loved it as a kid in the Canal
Zone ... 'Fairchild' is a very interesting mango. While it is not as
small as a 'Cogshall', the tree will be very productive at eight feet
in height and in spread, quite a dense little tree." This yellow mango
has a "wonderful" flavor and no fiber.
"But the great thing
about 'Fairchild,' this is a ... mid-season mango and highly disease
resistant ... actually selected to be grown under humid conditions. So
this is one that gives us a whole other idea on growing mangos."
promising cultivar, the 'Graham,' "came out of the lower Caribbean and
it's nice because many of us would like to grow 'Julie' here in Miami.
I don't know if any of you like the flavor of a 'Julie' mango. It's a
great mango. 'Graham' tastes like a 'Julie.' Any Jamaicans in the
audience are going to tell me that it's not a 'Julie.' And they're
right and I know it's not, 'Julie,' but ... it's coming closer ... than
a lot of fruit we have ..."
He listed the reasons he likes
'Graham': "it grows much better than 'Julie,' is small-stature, easy to
maintain, bears very heavily is much more disease resistant, and the
fruit are fairly large, a lot larger than a 'Julie,' about a pound,
pound and a half ... and it's a pretty heavy producer."
shared a tip on 'Graham:' " ... The first five or six mangos ripen,
they're not ready, they're sour tasting. Wait until the mid ones.
You've got to get to about August 15th before they're really good to
eat. So give the first ones away, and everyone thinks you're a nice guy
and you're wonderful and you keep the good ones for yourself. That's
the greatest trick of a mango, give away the ones that are not quite as
small-stature cultivar 'Mallika' can be container-grown as it's
"another very dwarfy mango" that could "eventually make a large tree."
'Mallika' consistently wins the tasting test held at Fairchild during
International Mango Festival. "This is a real winner ... a very good
cultivar." A tip on 'Mallika': "Most mangos you harvest when they ripen
on the tree. Most people let them break a little color on the tree. If
you do that with a 'Mallika', you do not get good quality. What we do
with 'Mallika', we harvest them a good three to four weeks before they
would normally ripen. We harvest them hard and green (with) no yellow
in the flesh.
"Then we put them at room temperature, and I don't
mean doctor's office room temperature, I mean between 75 and 80, Miami
room temperature, outside in like a nursery hothouse so it can get up
to 85 and even 90 sometimes. You leave them like that and they go ahead
and ripen up. They shrivel ... don't throw those out...They're pasty
and have a deep rich flavor you can't believe. Now this is something.
You have to trust me on this on 'Mallika'. It really makes a difference.
... 'Mallika' comes from southern India. In India they do not
cold-store their mangos (or) select for cold stored mangos. They
selected for mangos to be put in boxes and left out in the ambient
temperature and ripened up with sulfur three weeks after they harvest.
They don't go and harvest mangos that break color on the tree. They
harvest them green and ripen them up. and that's what we're trying to
do .. .If you let it ripen on the tree, you'll be disappointed ...
They'lI have internal breakdown and you'll think, 'Why did I get this
tree?' But if you harvest it early, you'll really like it."
briefly mentioned that 'Glenn' and 'Nam Doc Mai,' two well-known
cultivars with "great fruit," will fit into this New Mango Reality only
if the trees are managed: "you can't just plant it and walk away."
of trees: the second stage of the New Mango Reality. Dr. Campbell was
very firm on this subject. " ... The most important thing I can
communicate to you ... (is) don't plant your tree and leave it alone.
You've got to manage your trees, and I don't mean you manage it by
killing it with kindness, over-fertilizing, over-watering. I'm talking
mainly about tree training-pruning.
"When you plant a mango tree
you normally have a single whip or a few branches on it. What we want
to do is head that tree, a heading cut you want to do anywhere you're
comfortable with making your branches. I normally make my heading cut
at about my hip level or where my hand hangs down to my side. That's
where I make the height of the first branches on a mango tree. It's up
to you. You can make them at any height you want. Anywhere from 40 to
70 centimeters. Whatever height you want to get your mowers under.
... I've been heading my trees maybe a little too low. If any of you
have seen the mango trees in our collection, all the fruit are hanging
on the ground right now .... and they're getting a little too low and
the raccoons are harvesting some of the fruit. So I might want to raise
my branches a bit."
Heading breaks multiple buds down on the
stem ... and those buds form your scaffold limbs. These become the
major limbs of your tree." Try to choose three or four limbs that
encompass 360°. "You can even spread the limbs ... we use branch
spreaders or hang rocks from these trees or whatever to spread those
branches down a little bit so that they tend to be more horizontal. You
get earlier fruiting and better development from your trees.
you've got the basic scaffolding started and you're spreading them ...
start into a program of heading the branches when they get to about 50
centimeters ... about two hand lengths or a little longer. What does
that do? That causes those branches to produce multiple bud breaks
again and it make a very dense canopy. So what you get in ... two to
three years (is) a highly complex canopy (with) a lot of branching.
Bottom line is you get a lot of dense branching on there ... by doing
Other benefits include precocious flowering. You
have more growing points (so) you get better flowering, you get earlier
flowering, you get earlier fruit production.
... What you'll find is that your tree will try to beat you, and it's
always going to try to grow up. The tree is always trying to go
vertical on you." He had a slide that demonstrated the kind of branches
the grower need to watch out for. "They're not suckers but they are
strong uprights throughout the canopy and they can be all through the
canopy and you'll have multiple ones. These are your targets of
control. This is how the tree is going to try to sneak ahead of you and
make a big tall tree instead of a spreading little tree like you want."
important step of 'tipping' takes place when two hand-lengths of growth
occur, then we tip them, they make new flushes, we let those get to two
hand-lengths, we tip those, we get a nice canopy. Even with this
careful tipping, the tree will still want to shoot up "runaway leaders,
and we come in and remove those. Once a year we remove one or two of
those so that you're keeping that tree smaller. You're always fighting
vertical growth on your trees ... (but) don't go up and head the tree
like people like to do. You have to remove that whole branch. It's
important (to do that)." He emphasized that "the tree is constantly
Wood is great for the tree. It holds the tree up
and everything but wood is expensive. Wood is made at the cost of
fruiting. If your tree is producing a lot of wood it's taking away from
fruit production. The ultimate tree would have leaves and fruit, right?
That's what you would want, a big bunch of leaves lying on the ground
producing fruit for you ... but as you do this pruning you find that
your trees start to getting 'trunky' (and creating) too much wood ...."
avert this natural habit of the tree, each year "remove at least one
major scaffold limb ... within the tree." So there are two kinds of
management of the small-stature mango tree: heading the outer branches,
tipping and removing leaves; and thinning out major branches, removing
wood. His slides indicated that both leaves and wood are pruned away:
"You do not want to go in and just take leaves out of your tree. You
want to take some of the wood out and that's going to help control it
... (which) keeps your tree 'calm', if you will. When you make a
thinning cut like that your tree doesn't 'explode'."
happens when you come in and head back your tree? It explodes, doesn't
it? If you come in there and just trim off the tips of all those
branches it grows like crazy. This tree won't explode when you do this.
It won't go crazy in vigorous growth."
The canopy is continually
renewed by this method "on a four-year cycle. Every year I remove one
scaffold limb, so by the fourth year that tree doesn't have the same
canopy that it did four years ago .... Now this is not easy because you
have to stick with it and you can't be afraid to cut your tree, and it
can be a little scary sometimes. But if you do good thinning cuts, you
won't hurt your tree, and your tree will keep bearing and that's the
important thing. You do not stop it from bearing because the tree stays
calm and in control."
A slide demonstrated: "what you don't want
to do ... they left all of the wood, they just cut it all of the way
back. This tree didn't fruit this year, and it probably won't fruit
again next year and this was a great year for blooming on mangos ....
This (photo) is what most people do to trees when they cut them back
.... On a big tree like this it's awfully hard to do these thinning
cuts but if I were to have pruned this tree, I would have come in and
removed some of these big scaffolds and opened up big holes in the
tree. But at least it would have left some of the mature canopy up
there to fruit for you."
Some good advice that can be applied to
growing and managing all tropical fruits, not just mangos, is that a
larger crop of fruit helps the grower to control the size of the tree.
If the tree is not putting its energy into the fruit, it logically is
using it to make more wood and roots to grow more. "A productive tree
is an easy tree to control. The worst time to control tree growth is
after a freeze because you don't have any fruit. It's always terrible
after a freeze (because) there's no fruit, it knocks off all of your
bloom and the trees just grow like crazy." The idea of Mango Reality is
to grow small trees that are heavy producers.
"Again one of the
biggest problems I'm finding now is my fruit are hanging in the grass.
They get eaten up by raccoons and ... even squirrels can crawl on the
ground to get them." A tip on squirrels: "If you don't give the
squirrels an 'air bridge' to your tree ... you'll greatly cut down on
the amount of mangos they eat. That's what's real nice about having
small trees out in the middle of an opening, squirrels don't like to
run out across the grass because they're vulnerable to dogs ...."
slide of the old favorite, 'Tommy Atkins' was on the screen. Richard
had created 'holes' in this 16 to 18 foot tree with thinning cuts,
which "lets light into the tree. That tree is fruiting all the way down
into the tree ... You cannot hold a 'Tommy Atkins' at eight feet ...
(but) I can hold a 'Cogshall' at six feet ... a 'Fairchild' at eight
feet ... a 'Graham' at six to eight feet ... a 'Mallika' at eight feet,
easy. But a 'Tommy,' you're talking 15 feet because they're very
vigorous and it's really hard to hold them back. But this tree will
produce lots and lots of fruit. You know what you do with your 'Tommy
Atkins' fruit, don't you? Dry it or give it to your neighbors (if they)
are always bothering you for fruit ... give them your 'Tommy Atkins'
and then you eat your other fruit.
"I've never seen a crop on
'Edward' like we have this year. It's unbelievable. My mom and dad have
giant 'Edward' trees and they're loaded with fruit and when I go out
the back door she runs out to make sure that I'm not coming to steal
her fruit ... She won't give me any of them!"
displayed "a beautiful little 'Cogshall' tree that will produce 30 to
40 pounds. Now this year my 'Cogshall' probably has ... about 40 to 50
pounds of fruit. I can't quite see over my 'Cogshall' tree and I'm
pretty short so it's not that tall. Maybe you don't want your trees
that small, but for me that's a fruit producing machine. And trees
produce for me or they die. I'm pretty ruthless on my trees."
audience member asked what time of year he prunes his trees, and Dr.
Campbell responded that "the best time to prune is when you go to
finish harvesting your fruit .... Don't walk away without pruning it.
Bring your saw with you ... if you do prune it timely and consistently
you do not have to get in there with tree crews and cut down your tree
because it got big. The worst thing you can do is wait ... you do not
plant a tree and let it get to 15 feet and then decide that's the
height you want to hold it." By then it's grown a "giant root system"
and has a lot of wood. Commercial groves do let it grow up and then
they start hedging it. For homeowners that doesn't work well because we
don't have hedgers and toppers that come in every year ... So that's
why we start pruning when we plant it."
The care of mangos, Dr.
Campbell states, is fairly simple to him: "don't over-fertilize them
with too hot of a fertilizer, don't water them too much, don't fuss
over them too much and grow good disease-resistant cultivars that you
don't have to spray all of the time, and life's pretty sweet if you do
that. I don't spray my mangos at home and I get lots and lots of good
mangos because I select cultivars that bear well."
He answered a
question about how one tells when 'Mallika' is ready to pick: " ...
It's hard to judge ... I normally wait until the shoulders puff on it a
little bit, and you've got to look at them a lot, and you'll see it." A
lot of rain will speed the 'puffing-up' along, but Richard does admit
that even he has been wrong as to when maturity occurs on this
cultivar. "The best way to tell maturity on a mango is to ... cut a
divot out of it and look at the flesh. If there's any yellow in the
flesh it will ripen. Depending on how much yellow is throughout the
flesh, it will ripen faster. So if you have just a little bit of yellow
next to the seed it's going to take about ten days to two weeks to
ripen ... about half way out, it'll take about a week ... all the way
out, two to three days and that's a real good rule of thumb." However,
as previously mentioned, this rule doesn't work on the Indian cultivars.
harvests a few other mangos early as he does 'Mallika,' such as
'Alphonse' and 'Allampur-Baneshan', which both develop unpleasant, sour
flavors if allowed to ripen on the tree. He has learned the hard way
that with Indian cultivars this is the way you harvest them," pulled
off the tree when mature but not ripe and kept in a warm place. "That's
not the way you do a 'Tommy Atkins' ... or a 'Zill'" or similar
non-Indian cultivars, "but that is the way you do 'Mallika',
Q: "Can you keep a 'Lippens' small?"
"'Lippens' are real vigorous. They're hard to manage, They grow
straight up but when they're small at least they're so productive that
you can hold their size a little bit. I've never had one big enough to
work with. I've seen small trees managed pretty well. I'd say it's more
like in that 'Tommy' range where it's going to be about 15 feet.
'Lippens' are from Miami. The original tree was moved down to Frank
Smathers' place but it's been lost now."
Q: "How long do you wait to prune the young trees?"
"I use about two hand-lengths. Normally that's in the second flush when
that occurs ... one flush is about one hand-length on most trees, it
could be a lot longer than that. Then when you're in the middle of your
second flush I normally tip that second flush."
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