In many countries it is still the custom to propagate the loquat by seed, but in regions where the commercial cultivation of this fruit has received serious attention, this method has been replaced by budding and grafting. Seedling loquats are no more dependable than seedlings of other tree-fruits. As ornamental trees for parks and dooryards they can be recommended, but they will not serve when commercially marketable fruit is required.
Choice named varieties are budded or grafted on seedling loquat stocks or on the quince. Other plants have been used as stock-plants, but have not proved altogether satisfactory.
When budded on quince the tree is dwarfed. This stock is easy to bud; and it is believed to produce a tree which bears at an early age, while its fibrous root-system readily permits of transplanting. In spite of these advantages it is considered unsatisfactory in Florida, and in California it is commonly held that the seedling loquat is preferable. To produce stock-plants, loquat seeds may be planted singly in four-inch pots; they may be sown in flats of light soil and later transplanted; or they may be germinated in moist sand or sawdust and potted off as soon as they are 3 or 4 inches high. Potting soil should be light and loamy. After the young plants are 8 inches high, they may be planted in the field in nursery rows. When the stems are about 1/2 inch in diameter at the base, the plants are ready for budding or grafting.
In California, budding is best done in October or November. Bud wood should be of young smooth wood, preferably that which has turned brown and lost its pubescence and from which the leaves have dropped. Shield-budding is the method used (a description of the operation will be found in the chapter on the avocado). The buds should be cut at least 1 1/2 inches long. After inserting them in T-incisions made in the stocks at a convenient point not far above the ground, they are tied with raffia, soft cotton string, or waxed tape. Three or four weeks later the wraps should be loosened to keep them from cutting into the stock, and the eye should be left exposed. The wraps should not be finally removed until the bud has made several inches' growth. In California the stock-plant is cut off 2 or 3 inches above the bud in early spring. This usually forces the bud to grow, but sometimes it shows a tendency to lie dormant, and many adventitious buds develop around the top of the stock. These must be removed as fast as they make their appearance.
In Florida it has been found that buds unite readily with the stock-plant, but that it is difficult to force them into growth.
For this reason grafting has superseded budding in that state. The stocks should be of the same size as for budding, and the cion should be of well-matured wood. Cleft-grafting is the method commonly employed.
The young trees should be stake-trained in the nursery, and headed 24 to 30 inches above the ground. In a year from the time of budding or grafting they should be ready for transplanting.
In California, budded or grafted trees begin to bear the second or third year after they are planted in the orchard, but they cannot be expected to produce commercial crops until four or five years old. According to Condit, a ten-year-old tree should produce 200 pounds of fruit. Early in the season, the latter part of February and all of March, prices are high. Fancy fruit will bring 25 to 35 cents a pound at this time. Later, in May and June, the average price drops to 5 cents and occasionally lower, but fancy fruit rarely sells for less than 8 to 10 cents a pound. It is the opinion of experienced loquat-growers that the gross returns from an orchard should be $300 to $500 an acre; more than this has been obtained in some instances. The advisability of planting early varieties, in order to place the crop on the market while prices are high, is emphasized by all growers. If late fruit is to be produced, it should be of large-fruited varieties which ship well; otherwise the profits will be small.