Not enough is known about this fruit to fill in the horticulture, harvesting, nutrition, research needs, and other details as given in previous chapters. However, the tree has the following environmental requirements.
Daylength. Fruits are set in latitudes from the equator to 33°S in Chile, so daylength seems unimportant.
Rainfall. The plant grows well in areas subjected to occasional dryness and tolerates seasonal rains well, but not waterlogging or extended humid weather.
Altitude. Although most common in inter-Andean valleys between 1,500 and 3,000 m elevation, lucuma grows well and produces fruits of high quality in the Peruvian lowlands and at sea level in Chile.
Temperature. Although it thrives in cool highlands, lucuma seems to require frost-free climates and is killed by −5°C temperatures. Its climatic requirements are roughly comparable to those of lemons.
Soil Type. Lucuma appears adapted to sandy and rocky sites and needs well-drained soils. It tolerates moderate salinity, calcareous soils, and trace element deficiencies (particularly iron) that often restrict other fruit trees. However, it yields best in deep alluvial soils high in organic matter.
Lucuma is highly variable in fruit size and quality, but has received little horticultural or botanical attention.2 Fruit quality seems highly dependent on seedling type, climate, and horticultural practice. Commercial orchards would be more feasible if elite types were selected and propagated vegetatively.3
The Andes. Lucuma is best known and enjoyed in Chile, Peru, and southern Ecuador. In spite of local popularity, it has suffered elsewhere in the Andes because the types tried there produced fruits that were too dry or of poor flavor. If superior types are selected and propagated, this fruit has a much greater future throughout the region.
Peru and Chile have recently established named lucuma cultivars from selected grafts and seedlings. However, many valuable types remain in orchards and backyards—still to be “discovered.” Given the availability of superior cultivars suited to different climates, markets could be stimulated from Venezuela to Chile and Argentina.