Plum cultivating in Estonia after the World War II.
The domestic plum (Prunus domestica) is the main plum species cultivated in Estonian orchards. The bullace or Damson plum (P.d.subsp. insititia) is becoming much less popular. The cherry plum (P.cerasifera) is relatively new fruit tree and only few cultivars are available. Up to now there is almost only one rootstock – cherry plum seedlings. The plum is the second leading fruit tree. Its produc-tion constitutes 4–9% from the total fruit and berry crop.
However popular fruit tree the plum is, its production has not been stable due to cold winters. Thus, the very severe winters 1939/40 (and the two followings), 1955/56, 1965/66, 1978/79, and 1986/87 killed almost all plum trees of bearing age. The most endangered were North-East region, Jõgeva district, and South-East region (Põlva, Võru and Valga districts), also surroundings of Kuusiku, Türi and Väike-Maarja. Due to winter damages, no crop had given the big plum orchards of the Kullaaru farm (near Rakvere), Raasiku (in Harju district), and the Tõrva farm (Valga district). The worst crop years for the whole Estonia appeared in the periods 1963–1973 and 1977–1983, the greatest crop failure being in 1966 and very bad harvest in 1979 (the crop data were analysed since 1963). The bad harvest appeared also in 1963, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1975, 1980, 1982, and 1987.
The abundant crops were gathered in 1974, 1976 (record), 1984, 1986, and 1993. The most stable crop yield was in 1990s.
The plum cultivating is concentrated near the bigger towns. Thus, almost one quarter of the trees are planted in home gardens and summer cottages of Tallinn, Harju and Rapla dis-trict. 11% of the trees are growing in Tartu and Tartu district, 9% are growing in Viljandi district. Only a little less of trees is growing in Pärnu district. 7.5% of the trees are growing in East-Virumaa (near big towns Narva and Kohtla-Järve). The smallest number of trees is growing in Hiiumaa district (2%), Järva, Põlva and Valga districts.
The biggest plum producing enterprises with 1–2 ha to 18 ha orchards which gave a good production are situated in Tartu district and in Viljandi district. The productivity of plum trees in good years was 3–15 t/ha, the record 36 t/ha was in 1976 in Sootaga farm near Tartu.
The choice of cultivars have been based mostly on West European ones, for example 'Victoria', 'Edinburgh', 'Emma Leppermann', and on Estonian landraces. In 1990s, the situa-tion is turning to the advantages of local cultivars bred at the Polli Horticultural Institute: 'Ave', 'Julius', 'Kadri', 'Liisu', 'Suhkruploom', 'Vilmitar', and 'Vilnor', which are early or midseason plums of good quality, attractiveness and good size.
According to statistics, plums are imported into Estonia in quantities about one third (1996, 1997) as many they are produced in Estonia. The fresh fruit is available now year around. The yearly export is (to Finland) only 4–8 t. The production plus import makes about 1 kg per capita during the year.