Arka Sahan is a hybrid variety of custard apple, created out of cross combination of species of Annona, by the
Few years from now the custard apple you pick up from your fruit vendor will be more nutritious and have fewer seeds. Once you have savoured it you will be thankful to two scientists of the Bengalaru- based Indian Institute of Horticultural Research.
Scientists S H Jalikop and P Sampath Kumar have created a hybrid variety of custard, called Arka Sahan out of cross combination of species of Annona, thanks to their nearly two decades of dogged research and experimentation.
Like many hybrid fruits and vegetables, the Arka Sahan variety is also big. The properties, especially the taste, match the size. While the Mammoth variety of custard apple has 35 seeds in a 100g fruit Arka Sahan has only 9. Unlike the common custard apple, the pulp in the hybrid has to be scooped out with a spoon. It has a mild pleasant aroma, making Arka Sahan a distinct one. Because the skin is tough, the ripening process is slow and storage is easier. The easy way to eat the fruit is to cut it open into two halves using a knife.
While Jalikop conducted experiments on developing the fruit without a break, Sampath Kumar worked on the project for eight years. Jalikop proudly says that no variety of custard apple in the world can match Arka Sahan. It has been developed by isolating an extremely rare recombinant from more than 3,000 hybrids in the family of Annona cherimola X A squamosa X A Squamosa.
In simple terms, the hybrid is a cross combination of species of Annona, which is a genus common in fruits like Sithaphala and Ramphala. There are nearly 120 species of Annona, but only six are edible.
A few flowers of Arka Sahan develop into fruits, as in other Annonas. To supplement this, artificial hand pollination was conducted which helped in achieving a very high fruit set, large size, symmetrical fruits by pollinating with the common custard apple pollen. With natural pollination, it is difficult to achieve the desired result.
Nutritionally, 100 g pulp of Arka Sahan contains 2.49 g crude protein, 42.29 mg phosphorus and 225 mg calcium compared to 1.33 g, 17.05 mg and 159 mg ,respectively, in the common custard apple.
The trees come to fruition three years after planting. From the seventh year onwards, 40 to 45 kgs of fruit can be harvested from each tree. The fruits fetch good revenue because of their high quality. If it is planted on an acre, a return of Rs 1.3 to 1.5 lakh can be expected after investing about Rs 30,000 for cultivation and maintenance, the scientist says. Eighth year onwards, a tree of Arka Sahan can produce 40-45 kg fruits. Hence, in each tree about 150 flowers need to be hand pollinated with the common custard apple pollen to achieve an expected yield of 25 tonnes / ha. Fruits developing from hand pollination command a premium price in the market, making this technology commercially viable.
So far nearly two lakh saplings have been sold. I have asked a friend to send me couple of saplings too.