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.

Seasons in Australia are opposite to those in the US.  Summer is Dec. Jan. Feb. Autumn is Mar. Apr. May. Winter is June July Aug. Spring is Sept. Oct. Nov.

A New Mango Reality
Transcribed by Robert Sarnack. Edited by Donna McVicar Cannon.

Scientific Name: Mangifera indica
Family: Anacardiacea

"It's 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 traditional approach.

" ... 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."

Big 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 new reality?


" ... 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."

Another 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."

Another 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."

He 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 good."


The 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."

He 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."

Management 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.

"Once 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 this pruning."

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."

The 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 making wood.

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 ...."

To 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'."

What 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 ...."


A 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!"

His slide 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."

An 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.

Richard 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', 'Alphonse', etc.

Q: "Can you keep a 'Lippens' small?"

A: "'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?"

A: "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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Campbell, Richard. "A New Mango Reality." Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia. Talk to the Rare Fruit International, Inc. June 1999. Aug. 1999. Web. 29 Mar. 2016.

Published 29 Mar. 2016 LR
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