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Pineapple – Ananas comosus


The pineapple, Ananas comosus Merr., is a member of the Bromeliaceae, a large, diverse family of about 2000 species. Like the banana, it is one of the few important fruiting monocots.


The predominant cultivar is ‘Smooth Cayenne’, which was selected by Venezuelan Indians for its attractive, flavorful, seedless fruit, and importantly, the lack of spines on leaves. Four other groups of cultivars are recognized: ‘Queen’, ‘Spanish’, ‘Abacaxi’, and ‘Maipure’. ‘Queen’ and its derivatives are grown in South Africa and Australia for fresh market. ‘Spanish’ contains ‘Red Spanish’, probably the second most important cultivar of pineapple, and the major fresh market cultivar of the Caribbean. The ‘Abacaxi’ and ‘Maipure’ groups are of local interest only in tropical America.


The pineapple is native to dry forest or thorn scrub vegetation regions of South America, although its exact origin is disputed. Older sources placed the center of diversity in southern Brazil and Paraguay, but more recent study suggests it may be northern Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. In part, the confusion stems from distribution of cultivated types by Indians throughout tropical America and the Caribbean prior to the arrival of Columbus. Carib Indians probably distributed it to Guadeloupe, where it was collected by Columbus in 1493. The pineapple was then taken to Europe and distributed to the Pacific islands, India, and Africa by Spaniards and the Portuguese explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries. The first commercial plantation was established on Oahu in 1885, and Hawaii produced most of the world’s pineapple until the 1960’s, when urbanization and scarcity of labor forced production elsewhere, particularly the Philippines. The Hawaiian industry has continued its slow decline over the last decade, and now produces only 2% of the world’s pineapple. Today, southeast Asia still dominates world production, but large amounts are produced in Latin America and Africa as well.


World (2004 FAO) – 15,287,413 MT or 34 billion pounds. Worldwide, 82 countries produce pineapple in economic quantities on about 2.1 million acres. Average yields are 17,000 lbs/acre.

Top 10 countries
(% of world production)
1. Thailand (11%)6. Nigeria (6%)
2. Philippines (11%)7. Costa Rica (5%)
3. Brazil (10%)8. Mexico (5%)
4. China (10%)9.  Indonesia (3%)
5. India (9%)10. Kenya (4%)

United States(2004 USDA) – 195,450 MT or 430 million pounds. The industry value is $80 million. All production is in Hawaii, with current acreage of 13,000 and yields of about 33,000 lbs/acre. Prices received by growers are 19 ¢/lb, 4x higher for fresh fruit than processed.

For the most up to date statistical data on United States and World production numbers please refer to the following two websites:

World: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Statistics Division (FAOSTAT). FAOSTAT

United States: The United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service (USDA Ag Stats). USDA Ag Stats


Pineapples are rosette-forming, herbaceous monocots, 2-4 ft tall and 3-4 ft wide. Stems are short (12″), and inconspicuous in the center of the rosette of long (20-72″), linear leaves. The leaves have spines at tips and margins, except ‘Smooth Cayenne’ types which lack marginal spines. Leaves are spirally arranged on stems and have axillary buds at their base that can produce lateral shoots called suckers; these are used as planting stock for propagating the next crop. Alternatively, plants are trimmed back after harvest, leaving one sucker to grow in place of the original plant yielding a “ratoon crop”, or a second crop from the same field.

Individual flowers are small (½ -1″), purple-red, subtended by a single yellow, green or red bract, borne laterally on the rachis of a spike of 100-200 individuals. The apex of inflorescence is vegetative, becoming the “crown” on the fruit. Bromeliads are unusual plants in that flowering can be induced by chemicals; in nature, the gaseous hormone ethylene initiates flowering. Chemicals are applied when plants achieve a certain size, about 6-12 months after planting or cutting back to suckers in ratoon crops (approx the 30-leaf stage). Ethephon, naphthalene acetic acid (NAA), calcium carbide, and BOH (ß-hydroxyethyl hydrazine) are used commercially, with ethephon being the most widely used chemical.

Pineapple is highly self-incompatible, exhibiting gametophytic incompatibility where the pollen germinates on the stigma, but fails to grow through the style and effect fertilization. Seedless fruit are set parthenocarpically. If flowers are cross-pollinated, a few small, brown seeds may be found just beneath the peel of the fruit. Hummingbirds are the natural pollinators.

The fruit type is a multiple of berries, formed from the fusion of adjacent flower ovaries on the spike as they mature. Another name for this type of fruit is syncarp. The core is the fleshy rachis of the spike, often fibrous and unpalatable. The fruit is covered with a waxy, leathery rind, made up of hexagonal “eyes”, arranged spirally, which denote the position of individual flowers. One fruit per plant is produced, and the shoot it was borne on dies back or is cut off. Fruit require about 6 months from forcing to harvest. Total production time is 15-18 months from transplanting, or about 12 months for a ratoon crop.


A Dole plantation on Oahu, Hawaii shows pineapple as far as the eye can see. Pineapple is considered a “plantation crop” due to its large-scale production methods in many areas.

Soils and Climate
Well-drained sandy loams, with pH 4.5-6.5 are best. Fumigation is practiced routinely, since nematodes are serious problems in most growing areas. Pineapples are naturally drought tolerant by virtue of being CAM plants, opening their stomata at night for CO2 uptake, and closing them during the day. They can be grown in seasonal wet/dry areas of the tropics that do not support less water efficient crops. However, supplemental irrigation is often provided to maximize yield in dry seasons. Black plastic mulch is used in intensive plantings for weed control and conservation of soil moisture. Pineapples are restricted to hot, tropical lowlands with temperatures above 65°F.

Plants are vegetatively propagated from crowns, or axillary shoots arising from either the base of the fruit (slips) or base of the plant (suckers). Unrooted shoots are placed into the soil and root in situ. The size of the planting material affects production; larger crowns/suckers give the highest yield and reduce time from planting to harvest.

Rootstocks – none

Planting Design, Training, Pruning

Pineapple is often grown on large, vertically integrated plantations that maintain fields in all stages of development, from soil preparation to harvest. The whole operation is generally highly mechanized. Plants are usually grown on two-row beds, spaced 12 inches apart in rows, and 1-2 ft between rows on a bed. Alleys between beds are 2-4 ft wide. Plant densities of 18,000-24,000 per acre are obtained this way.


Color change of the fruit exterior from green to yellow is the most common method of determining maturity. For canning, fruit are allowed to reach a more advanced stage prior to harvest, about ½ to 3/4 yellow.

Harvest Method
For fresh market, fruit are hand-harvested. Fruit are cut or broken off stalks and carried on the back or placed on a conveyor to load fruit onto trucks or bins. Mechanical harvest is used for canning in some plantations, where 2 conveyors, one above the other, harvest the fruit by breaking it off, and carrying it to de-crowners by the lower conveyor.

Postharvest Handling
Fresh fruit are washed and waxed prior to boxing. Fungicides for postharvest disease prevention are in the wax. A short section of flower stalk is left to protect the base of the fruit during shipment. For canning, fruit is de-crowned, cored and peeled, then sliced and canned. Slices damaged during processing are sold as chunks. About 60% of the fruit is recovered as slices or chunks, and the remaining flesh on the core and skin is crushed for juice. The residue leftover, called pineapple bran, is used as livestock feed. Frozen pineapple develops off-flavors; this is why most processed fruit is canned.

Pineapples can be stored for up to 4 weeks at temperatures of 45°F or above. Chilling injury is common at temperatures of <45°F, and shows up only after removal from refrigeration as flesh browning and crown injury.


About 35-45% of the Hawaiian crop is sold fresh, and the remainder processed, mostly into canned slices, pieces, juices, and fruit cocktail. In addition to the fruit, the tender shoots and terminal buds (inflorescences) are eaten in salads like heart ‘o palm. Per capita consumption was 12.9 lbs/year in 2004.

Dietary value, per 100 gram edible portion

Water (%)86
Protein (%)0.3
Fat (%)0.1
Carbohydrates (%)13
Crude Fiber (%)0.5
% of US RDA*
Vitamin A1.6
Thiamin, B13.6
Riboflavin, B21.2
Vitamin C20

* Percent of recommended daily allowance set by FDA, assuming a 154 lb male adult, 2700 calories per day.