Alphonso Of Nagar Revived From Extinction

Shamkant Thange and his family have helped revive the local ‘Tikhliya’ mango variety by saving grafts from the branches of one tree. His 2-acre orchard now grows 200 mango trees.

Ever since word spread that Shamkant Thange has successfully revived a once-popular mango variety in his two-acre orchard in Tikhol village in Ahmednagar Maharashtra, he has been receiving a stream of visitors including farmers from far off Sindhudurg.

Swamped by hundreds of orders for the saplings of mango, locally known as ‘Tikhliya’, the 52-year-old assures prospective buyers saying, “I will be able to offer it by early next year.”

A small village with 2,000 plus inhabitants, Tikhol sits in a valley circled by the Sahyadri range. Barely 3 km from National Highway 61, the village of farmers is home to an earthen dam, which caters to drinking water and is also used for irrigating crops like bajra, sweet pea, onion, tomato, sugarcane and beans. The village also borders the famed Ralegan Siddhi, considered to be a model of environmental conservation.

According to the villagers, the Tikhliya mango trees have stood on the edge of the village since the British era but stopped yielding fruits in the early ’90s. There are two theories about how it got its name: first, because it belonged to Tikhol village and second, because of its light green dots (tikki in Marathi) on the fruit’s body. In Maharashtra, mango trees which come up beside water bodies, like a river or a pond are known as raiwal or gavran amba (local mango variety). Tikhliya is also a raiwal variety.

Old timers here tell you that the mango variety has had a special place in the heart of Tikhol and its neighbouring villages. Till about the 1970s, after harvest, bullock carts laden with ripe Tikhliya were taken in a procession with a brass band playing till the village’s border. However, the practice was discontinued in the early ’70s. “We took the mangoes loaded in bullock carts to the Nagar (Ahmednagar is colloquially referred as) mandi, which is 40km away. Six bullock carts carried around six quintals each of the fruit,” reminiscences Sakhare Thange (85). He adds, “It took us close to three hours to reach the mandi and we sold a choudah (a pile of 14) for Rs 40.”

As late as 1984, a Tikhol farmer, Rangnath Ganpat Kabre, was awarded a cash prize of Rs 1,000 by the Ahmednagar Zilla Parishad for growing the Tikhliya variety. Now we know why it acquired the moniker, ‘Nagar Cha Hapus’ (Hapus of Ahmednagar), comparable to Konkan’s Alphonso.

However, by the late ’90s, the tree had stopped yielding fruits, which in horticulture is called becoming ‘senile’. Six years into the new millennium it had withered. Then, sometime in 2006, Shamkant, whose family had enjoyed it’s fruits, decided to conserve it. “The tree had withered and become lifeless, barring a couple of branches. I brought home a couple of them and made grafts of them which over the years I planted on three gunthas (3000 sq. ft) of land,” says the man who has devoted 15 long years to revive Tikhliya.

Flowering on this tree begins in the December-January period and a 10-year-old tree annually yields between 3 to 5 tonnes of fruits, according to Shamkant.

From the oldest orchard comprising 50 trees, this year, the Thanges harvested 50 quintals and sold it for Rs 150 a kg.

Of the many who consider Tikhliya to be a hidden gem awaiting to be rediscovered is one Vasant Gharat (60), a Panvel resident who trades in fish spawns. He says, “During a business trip to Tikhol I happened to enjoy the mango and ever since then, my family and I have been asking for more of it. What’s remarkable about this mango variety is it’s aroma stays with you. I was so charmed by it that I acquired a couple of saplings and gifted them to a farmer friend.”

There are scores of farmers in Tikhol who grow mangoes, namely Dasheri, Payeri and Kesar but it’s the Thanges who besides growing other crops have helped revive a local variety and propagate it too.

Dwelling on the identifying characteristics of Tikhliya, Devendra Jadhav, Block Technology Manager, ATMA (Agricultural Technology Management Agency) who has been working in Parner taluka since 2016, says, “Tikhliya arrives after all the mango varieties, like Hapus, Kesar, Payeri, etc, have finished their three-month-long reign. Harvested in mid-June it’s much-sought after among the fruit’s dedicated fans.”

Every year a storm characterised by high-speed winds and heavy rains fells the mango crop in large numbers leading to losses to the grower. Interestingly, Tikhiliya is endowed with a unique feature noticed by the villagers. The thick stem on which fruits hang in a bunch protects it from erratic weather conditions.

ATMA has big plans for Tikhliya. Jadhav says, “We will provide all the assistance to the Thanges to develop a nursery and cater to the huge demand for its saplings. We want to make Tikhliya synonymous to Maharashtra which will benefit growers who want to grow off season mango.”

Weighing around 250-300g, the fruit, once plucked, remains fresh for up to 25 days. Slightly rounder in shape, firm-fleshed, fibre-free and endowed with a pleasing aroma, Tikhliya has delicate skin. When ripe the skin becomes yellow. But it lacks the extreme sweetness of Alphonso.

Taking into consideration its unique features, ATMA has filed for GI (Geographical Index) status with the IPR cell of Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri.

The family also aspires to enter the variety in the National Database of Mangoes which is maintained by the Department of Biotechnology, Indian Council of Agriculture Research and Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture. “If the Thanges achieve the status of becoming a custodian farmer like hundreds of others spread across the country who conserve our horticulture heritage,” says Jadhav.

Having tasted few slices of a freshly-cut Tikhliya I tend to agree with what Avinash (28), a third generation Thange and an agriculture graduate, told me: “Whatever you write, it would still be inadequate to express the mango’s uniqueness.”

Reach Avinash on 9552585143

Also check https://www.thebetterindia.com/260084/maharashtra-farmer-saves-extinct-tikhilya-mango-breed-farming/

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22 Mango Varieties On 1 Plant. Sangli Farmer Aims To Reach 100

Antral. How this village of 280 plus families, 15 kms from Jath taluka in Sangli district (Maharashtra), came to be known so no one is able to tell you. (By the way Antral in English means ‘breathing space’). 

In this medium-sized village resides one Kakasaheb Sawant, a former automobile mechanic who after having worked for automobile majors  like Bajaj, Telco, Kinetic and others for decade and a half decided to return to his native village in order to grow mangoes and encourage others too.

“In the last job I held I was working as a faculty member with Kohinoor Technical Institute at Sangli. As I was transferred elsewhere I decided to return to my village and take care of the family’s farm lands,” he told me on the phone.

In a district famed for its vineyards and pomegranate farms 43-year-old Kakasaheb, always dressed in a full- length white shirt, is famous here for his nursery of fruit-bearing plants and a mango tree with varieties of mangoes. His one-year Kesar mango sapling is available for Rs 50.

Awarded the title of ‘Udyan Pandit (2018-19)’ by Maharashtra government, Sawant reminiscences: “When I began planting mangoes a decade back people laughed at me saying ‘This isn’t Konkan.'”

Sawant’s family, which includes his two brothers who are teachers own 20 acres of land in a place considered drought-prone. The Sangli district is situated in the Southern part of Maharashtra and is a part of the Deccan plateau. It is gifted with fertile black soil.

Sawant’s farm plots are equally divided into the mango and non-mango ones. The Kesar variety occupies 10 acres while the rest farm plots have chickoos, pomegranates, custard apples, guava, tamarind and others.

Farmers from far and near visit Sawant’s farm with dual purposes– to pick up the fruit saplings and to have a dekho at the horticulture wonder: a three-year-old mango tree with 22 varieties grafted on it which at this time of the year is laden with fruits of different sizes and colours–from teal to bottle green, from parrot green to moss–and with names (yes, they are labelled for the viewer’s sake, like a museum exhibit) like Sindhu, Dudhpedha, Kroton, Dasheri, Vanraj, Niranjan, Lalbagh, Taiwan and 14 others including Amrapali, Alphonso, Baramashi and others.

Grafting is a horticultural technique whereby tissues of plants are joined to continue their growth together. The upper part of the combined plant is called the scion while the lower part is called the rootstock.  Sawant has introduced scions of 22 varieties to the desi rootstock.

Though all are from the Mangifera Indica family some fruits are bulbous, some spheroid and some skinny. You also come across mangoes as long as one’s palm and some the size of an apple. This summer 16 of them have fruited.

Farmers return home nursing a desire to replicate Sawant’s miracle, one day. I too nurse such an ambition.

His nursery, called Banashankari, is spread on an acre. “I sell around two lakh mango saplings a year alone besides custard apple, jamun, chikoo, guava and lemon,” informs Sawant.

Having sourced most of the mother plants from Dapoli-based Balasaheb Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth over the years he has so far grafted them on a desi mango variety plant, known in Marathi as Rawal. When I tell him about Katimon, a dwarf-sized Thai mango variety that fruits thrice a year and is now a rage among West Bengal orchard owners who source it from neighbouring Bangladesh Sawant asks me to provide contact details. “I’ll try to acquire some,” he tells me.

As he runs a large nursery Sawant sources skilled workmen to make the grafts and saplings who come from Dapoli, 225 km away from Sangli, to work at the nursery from June to August living with the family and having their meals together. “They’re very skilled and the saplings are a hundred percent success,” he informs. “I’ve picked the techniques from them. In fact, among them is one sixty-year-old man who has been grafting plans since the age of 12 and he is a master.”

Last year as they were unable to come to Antral riding on State Transport buses from Jalagaon due to lock-down Sawant sent a car to pick them. Each day these ‘graftsmen’ ready around 800 to 1000 saplings, earning Rs 3 each.

Eager to share the technique of growing mangoes without expecting anything in return, he says,”I’m always available on and enjoy talking to strangers and willing to share what I’ve learnt over the years.”

Sharing the secrets on what, how and when of grafting, Sawant elaborates, “When choosing the branch to be grafted make sure the leaves on it are not over four months old and the branch is tender with green skin. The day temperature should be between 25 to 30 degrees C which is during early May here,” he informs, adding that in a couple of years he plans to reach the magic figure of hundred grafts on the same tree.

Having seen a video of the luscious-looking mangoes hanging from wire-thin branches I inquire: “Who gets to eat the 22 varieties of mangoes?”

“My family members, of course,” he replies. “Our family has 16 members.”

Reach Sawant on +91 82753 91582.

Check out these videos

https://youtu.be/cq20-aJ6z84

https://youtu.be/L-cPV0D0i8g

……

900 Plants & 8 tonnes of Mangoes from an Acre. Miraj Farmer Does It

With ‘bliss’ in your name, it’s hardly unexpected for someone to say: I’m blessed to be a farmer. Moreso in a State which has witnessed high incidences of suicides of farmers in the country.

However, sixty-one-year-old Parmanand Gavane has overriding reasons to feel blessed. First, his experiment with an ultra-high-density plantation (UHDP) has been successful and secondly, he is able to share his experiences with wannabe mango growers visiting his farm in Belanki, a village 25 km from Miraj town in Sangli district. His popularity has spread thanks to the several write-ups in newspapers and the YouTube videos.

As I caught up with this celebrity mango grower on a July noon, he told me that he has harvested eight tonnes of the fruit from an acre of the Kesar variety, weighing 250g to 400g, which has been picked by buyers from Delhi, Hyderabad,Kolkata, Bangalore and Raipur.

Madhanand with freshly harvested Kesar mangoes

From three tonnes in 2015, his maiden harvest, to 7.5 tonnes in 2020 Gavane believes that with proper management of the orchards he can achieve 10 tonnes per acre!

Instructing his farmhands on making rings around the trunks of the trees for fertilizer application, he says, “I’ve sold 4000 petis totalling 16 tonnes.”

Traditionally a grape grower, Gavane having seen a farmer in Lingnur village follow the high-density plantation planted 900 saplings each on two acres in 2012.

 “Initially, the farmer showed me around his orchard but later refused me entry despite several entreaties,” says Gavane. “I realised then that I was on my own and decided if I ever become successful  I will keep my orchard open to all and share my experiences too.”

Each month he receives close to 50 farmers and this year he has already notched 2,000 despite the pandemic. In the months of May and June when the trees are heavy with fruits the number of visitors peak.

Kesar mangoes hanging from a tree

Gavane’s is a rare case because most UHDPs in India do not go beyond 700 trees, compared to the traditional technique of 40 trees per acre. UHDP has been practised since long in Israel and South Africa and is now being followed by a handful of daring and enterprising farmers, of them Gavane is a shining example.

UHDP can yield up to 200% more crop than the traditional method of cultivation; ensures a uniform shape and colour of the fruit while maintaining its flavour and freshness; the tree is not allowed to grow beyond 7 feet in height by regularly pruning it, and leads to mango orchards attaining their full potential in 3-4 years which  is in contrast to the 7-8 years taken by traditional methods of cultivation.

According to Gavane the method, while improving per acre productivity, simultaneously reduces the usage of water. This leads to optimal use of Gavane arrives in his orchard early morning with a copy of much-thumbed Dāsbodh only to return home at sunset.

Dāsbodh, loosely meaning “advice to the disciple” in Marathi, is a 17th-century Advaita Vedanta spiritual text. Orally narrated by saint Samarth Ramdas to his disciple, Kalyan Swami it’s a sort of a tutorial  providing readers with spiritual guidance on matters such as devotion and acquiring knowledge.  “I browse through it whenever I’m idle and alone. The book provides me with guidance on my spiritual journey,” he informs.

Monsoon is a month-old and the ground I wet too and the air is cool too. The mangoes trees planted in neat rows with the black-coloured drip pipes snaking all around. “I administer a mix of organic and chemical fertiliser, 70 and 30 per cent respectively including a the use of a fungicide which inhibits growth but hastens flowering,” he volunteers.”In this method, fertilizer intake is very high.”

Gavane spends close to Rs 100,000 per acre which includes fertiliser and labour costs ending up with a profit of Rs 600,000 per acre.

This system warrants adoption of certain important technologies like formative pruning in the initial years so as to have desirable plant architecture, proper canopy management annually to encourage vegetative growth immediately after harvest, stopping of the vegetative growth during September to favour fruit bud initiation and differentiation.

Adoption of drip irrigation system in order to replenish the loss of moisture and providing nutrients with required quantity at appropriate doses through fertigation technique are highly essential to get a higher yield with quality fruits.

Saplings in the nursery

A year after the plantation he harvested three tonnes of the fruit which has slowly risen to eight tonnes per acre. According to Gavane several farmers in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are following his pattern and are spread in 200 acres.

Besides Kesar he has few of Rumani, picked from Karnataka and grown for making pickles, Benishan and the purple beauty which a friend gifted. “Tommy Atkins of Florida (US) which a nursery owner has shared. It’s very sweet,” he says.

Assisted by his sons, Shivanand, a Civil Engineer who quit his job in a Kirloskarwadi-based firm and Madhavanand, an Arts Graduate Gavane continues to grow the Sonaka and SS varieties of grapes on nine acres and also runs a plant nursery. “I sell around 40,000 saplings of Kesar every year,” he concludes.

Tommy Atkins growing in Gavane’s orchard

Reach Gavane on +91 74482 31351

Conversations With A ZBNF Farmer

Driven in a white-coloured Volkswagen Polo you would expect an early thirties techie to play Bruno Mars, Adele or maybe Mika, if you’re  a Bollywood follower, but you’re in for a surprise as you catch a reedy voice talking about farming in an earthy Marathi. Yes, Sujay Gawand plays Padmashri recipient Subhash Palekar’s lectures on Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) as we do the two-and-half-hour long drive to his family’s farm in Murbad from Powai.

We leave behind villages named Saralgaon (the village of simple-minded folks), Tokawade (rhymes with takeaway) to reach Pendhari on the NH 222 after we have had spicy vada-pao and washed it down with jeera drink in a roadside restaurant which dots the roadsides claiming to offer you umpteen variety of dishes but has not been allowed to express their culinary skills beyond missal-pao because no one so far has asked for butter chicken!

Sujay“I have downloaded hours and hours of lectures and hear them often to catch up on the techniques of ZBNF,” says Sujay proudly, who is among the growing breed who either are hobby farmers juggling their jobs and dirtying their hands with soil or those who believe that farming is their alternative calling.  Till recently a whole time techie, Sujay having worked as a software developer in places like Connecticut and Hawai presently works as a freelancer techie and a farmer. “I am seriously into it… 80 percent into farming and the rest as a software developer,” says the man who spends three days in a week in his farm and also moonlights as a software developer for a start-up he and a friend own.

The Gawand family till about 25 years back lived in a wadi in Bhandup. “We had all sort of fruit trees, mango, chickoo, papaya etc. I still remember tasting the latex of papaya out of curiosity and spitting it soon in disgust. Thanks to creeping urbanization my father sold the wadi where now high-rise towers have come up and with the money earned acquired 18 acres in Pendhari village,” he reminiscences.

BananaFew kilometres away from Malshej ghat, farmers in Pendhari continue to grow paddy in kharif and bhindi (okra), and tur as a fence crop during rabi. Sujay has planted ‘bahuvarshik tur” which is likely to yield tur for a couple of years on 2.5 acres with various intercrops including moong and ginger. The tur plants are between 6 ft to 10 ft fed with jeevamrut and the occasional spray of dashaparni to combat the pest. “The person who sold me the seeds claimed that each plant would yield around 5kgs but I would be happy if it gave 2kgs,” says Sujay who sheds his sneakers for a gumboot as he assumes the avatar of a shetkari. “The locals laughed at me when they came to know that I was growing tur as a crop but now they come to seek my advice.”

This May and June Sujay door-delivered Haphus, Payeri and gaonthi varieties of mangoes to people in the Central suburbs and also to one family in Ville Parle. “Every time I visited my farm I lugged nearly 300 kgs of mangoes in the dickey of my car,” informs Sujay.

In fact, Ghorpade family was fortunate to have the mangoes because Sujay took matters into his hands. As family members rarely visited the farm the caretaker for decades had maintained: Kahi nahi hot. Meaning the trees hardly yielded any fruit.

Like most young urban dweller turned hobby farmer Sujay believes in the motto of share, cooperate and collaborate. Spent time with him he will provide you with hazaar ideas about crops, farming techniques, organic pesticides etc. – techniques which he has either experimented with or acquired from others experiences. Like pooling resources of like-minded farmers to concretise the floor of a local cattle owner and in turn the donor is promised complimentary cans of gomutra. Or acquiring a cow past its prime so that it doesn’t end up in a slaughterhouse. Pointing towards the new guest tethered to a tree Sujay says with pride: “That’s my new possession. Now I need not scout for gobar and gomutra.”

cowIt is always a dream of every farmer to grow paddy and next kharif season Sujay plans to sow the Indrayani variety. Once harvested he plans to leave the stubble so that he can squeeze a second crop the next season.  Being a techie Sujay’s approach to farming is like handling a project: trying to minimize the chances of human errors by researching the crop/fruit he plans to introduce, understanding the suitable weather conditions, interacting with fellow growers, accumulating information from locals etc. However, he is steadfast on the issue of never taking recourse to chemical inputs but find natural means to combat issues. Be it in search of growth promoter, fertiliser or pesticide.

Presently, in the midst of readying his plots for watermelon and pineapple, he says he is still to identify the pineapple variety he plans to zero in. “I will either go for Mauritius or Queen, not the MD2,” says he.

As he leaves me at Tokawade bus stand for a Murbad-bound bus he asks apologetically: “Hope your journey was fruitful?”

Indeed it was: for I was introduced to herbs like Akkalkada (Anacyclus Pyrethrum)—chewing the tiny flower makes the tip of the tongue grow numb for a short while; and Anantmool (Hemidesmus indicus)—the powder of its root used for skin conditions.

For an ignoramus, like me, till very recently they were just weeds.

Rahul, the mango man

Jarda, Langda, Bambaiya, Cipiya Sukul, Bathua, Mithua, Fazli, Chausa, Krishnabhog…Many of us who are not from the hinterland of Bihar will not recognise that these are names of local varieties of Mangoes, prized for their distinctiveness and loved by the locals.

“Cipiya has a better shelf life, Sukul is the one you like to dig your teeth into and then suck the juice besides its best suited for pickles while Mithua as the name implies is the sweetest of them all,” says Rahul Singh (24), a mango grower of Namidih (24°40’18″N   84°28’27″E) village in Vaishali district of Bihar. Those who can’t think beyond Alphonsos, Bainganpallis, Dasheris et al may not agree. Each his/her taste, as it’s said. For there is nothing called as ‘common’ taste.

Twenty-four-year–old Rahul, a M.Tech, is recipient of Krishi Yuva Samman 2015, awarded by the Mahindra Samriddhi India Agri Award for reviving his four-decade old mango orchard using the Canopy Management Technique resulting in increased yield. The Agri Award which is in its fifth year recognises the innovation undertaken by farmers in increasing yields and adopting new technologies. Sadly, it hardly gets any media coverage. In fact, the organisers this year inserted a full page ad in The Times of India.Remember these are the farmers who feed us.

Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh

Village Nimidih is 40kms from the capital city of Bihar, Patna. Here the Singh’s own 30 acres of land in which they have a mango orchard in 7 acres, litchi in three acres and the rest they grow paddy and vegetables. Rahul’s father, Jitendra is the sole custodian of the family’s land as the other male members of the joint family have moved to the cities, taking up government jobs. In fact, you’re likely to come across such stories in Vaishali—of people abandoning farming as returns are low and preferring to be sarkari babus assured they are of their monthly salary. “I have been taking care of our land since the last 15 years growing paddy for our consumption and selling the rest in the market,” says 54-year-old Jitendra.

In many parts of the country, senile unproductive orchards of seedling origin continue to stand. These orchards with unmanageable canopy neither produce fruits nor the quality. Besides, they act as sources of pest and disease. Canopy management is the manipulation of tree canopy to optimize the production of quality fruits. It encompasses both training and pruning which affect the quantity of sunlight intercepted by trees, as tree shape determines the exposure of leaf area to incoming radiation. An ideal training strategy centers around the arrangement of plant parts, especially, to develop a better plant architecture that optimizes the utilization of sunlight and promotes productivity.

In 2012 July Rahul, an alumnus of Jaipur’s Gyan Vihar University, began the process of Canopy Management on the four-decade old mango trees under the guidance of National Horticulture Mission. He followed the three principles:

  • Formation of strong frame work having branches on all directions with near equidistance between branches
  • Developing the canopy with centre opened so that it gets better exposure to sunlight
  • Controlling the stature/size of the plant to harness the maximum productivity

Two year later, Rahul’s mango yield jumped from 4000kg/acre to 10,000 kg/acre attracting the attention of the jury of Mahindra Samriddhi Award resulting in him winning the Krishi Yuva Samman’s Regional Award (East Zone). Reminiscences Rahul’s father, “Every year when he came home on vacation he tried new methods to increase yield and has even gone for high density plantation, planting 160 mango saplings in a acre, compared to the old orchard which has barely 40 plants.”

Rahul suggests that pruning of the plants be conducted only once in three years, immediately after post harvest. With seven varieties of mangoes the harvesting begins in the month of June and continues till mid-August. “After pruning the plants I spray them with a fungicide. In July and November he plies the plants with vermicompost and neem cake. “While vermicompost works as a fertilizer the nitrogen-rich neem cake also prevents pests, “says Rahul.

Asked whether he would continue to do farming considering he completed his MTech degree in 2014, he says, “I have still to make up my mind. Presently, I am enjoying farming.”

Rains in February

Clouds over my farm
Clouds over my farm
When I returned home last Sunday and told wifey how the showers had played havoc on the mango trees she gave me the look: “I told you…..”
For she had not approved of my putting the pictures of my blossoming mango trees on the blog.
Ever since the showers began on Friday I prayed I don’t know to whom because I consider myself atheist. Every hour of the day I was in constant touch with Mangal, asking: Paus Thamle Ka (Have the rains stopped)!
Hoping it would be a good harvest this year I had invited friends and colleagues to my farm. “We will have a mango utsav. You can feast on aplphonso, langda, dasehri, banganpalli, molgova, totapuri,” I had promised.
mango flowersOf the many I was sure my Dada and Boudi would come–for they had already booked their tickets in February. In fact, when they visited my farm in early January they stayed for over four hours and even made plans for a barbeque evening.
“We will stay overnight in the hut and have a barbeque,” Dada had said while we drove home.
By Monday evening I instructed Mangal to spray the mango trees with neem oil to prevent the pests which had multiplied due to humidity.
I will be lucky if I get even 20 mangoes this year! Get ready to pay a premium for your Hapus because the unseasonal showers have played dirty. This year mango lovers in Mumbai and Thane will have to suffice with Dasheri, Langda and Neelam.

674 plants in an acre!

Most mango orchards in India traditionally have had 40 to 50 plants in an acre. In times when land is getting scarce and land prices shooting northwards it’s time to maximize from the minimum. That’s the philosophy of ultra high density mango plantation which believes that one can have astounding 674 mango plants in an acre.
The Indian Council of Agriculture Research and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University in a YouTube presentation is propagating the idea which the agriculture scientists came across during a visit to an orchard in South Africa with 900 mango plants in an acre.
I came across the highly informative video presentation. Here is the summary:
• The pH of the soil should be between 6.5 to 7.5. If less , advised to add lime to the soil before planting
• The pit for planting should 1m/1m/1m
• When the plant is 3ft high cut the tip
• Two months later, when the plant gets three branches cut the tips
• Try to achieve an umbrella shape when doing pruning. After pruning spray or apply fungicide, Copper Oxychloride
• Don’t allow the tree to grow beyond seven feet in order to ease plucking of fruits.
• Mango cultivar recommended for dwarf cultivation, namely Alphonso, Banganpalli, Imam Pasand, Banglora, Mallika and Himsagar
I have just 25 mango trees. Which means I can have at least another 200 because I have jackfruit, Aonla, Lichi, Banana, Papaya, Cashew, Coconut, Mulberry, Custard Apple and scores of flowering trees.

Flowers can fool

By looking at the image you’re likely to be fooled. The tree in question is a mango tree in full bloom. By the end of the first week of February this Alphonso mango tree is loaded with flowers. Each flower is small with white petals and a mild sweet aroma. A mango tree in full flower is a beautiful sight indeed!
mangoHaving counted the blooms, you will be made to believe that this tree is likely to give at least 1000 plus mangoes! But that’s far from reality. If you get 200 plus mangoes, count yourself lucky.
Having observed the mango trees in my orchard since last seven years I have realized that all flowers do not become fruits. Most flowers turn brown then black and shed from the tree. The flowers are pollinated by insects and less than 1% of the flowers will mature to form a fruit.

Tipu Sultan’s Mangoes

If it’s May, it’s the month for mango stories. Mango is one fruit which we all love. You can’t take mango out of an Indian. Here is a story I picked up from different published sources. It’s about amazing diversity of the King of Fruits.
mango in karvaliKirgaval is a lush green village which is a part of Mallavalli taluka of Mandya district in South Karnataka. Here a farmer grows mangoes which were popular during Tipu Sultan’s time.
The 18th century ruler had an army station in Kirgaval. Folklore has it, when Tipu decided to disband the regiment, he gave the land in and around the village to his soldiers. At that time Kirgaval was known for 300 to 400 exotic mango varieties.
Syed Ghani Khan of Kirgaval village grows mangoes which were favourite with Tipu. Today, except for some 116 rare mango trees surviving in Ghani’s farm, Kirgaval is as faceless as any paddy growing village in the area.
Here you will find mango smelling like a mosambi, called ‘mosambi ka aam’, the one that looks like an apple is called ‘seb ka aam’. There are other varieties too, like “moti ka aam”, “aate ka aam”, “meethe mian pasand” and “nanhe mian pasand”. Then there is Farha, which matches the Alphonso in taste and pulp quality.
Ghani’s favourite is “manjhe bi pasand”, the mango that shrinks with time. “It is exceedingly sweet and has a shelf life of 15-20 days after it is fully ripe,” says Ghani.
In 2006, Ghani came in contact with an organic farming group called Sahaja Samruddha. Through the group he met agriculture scientist and writer Devinder Sharma who advised him to register his varieties with the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources. After two years of hard work his 116 varieties were registered as indigenously collected plant material.

Courtesy Down to Earth. Pic by Aparna Pallavi

Dasheri, my love

Dasehri mangoes in my farm
Dasehri mangoes in my farm
My first mango, if I remember rightly was a Dasheri which father had brought having cycled four kms. to the market. At dinner, we all seated on the floor enjoyed the fruit, sliced and cut piled on a steel plate. We lived in a Air Force cantonment and the market was away. One had to bicycle all the way to the market to fetch groceries, vegetables, fruits etc. Even for a haircut—which costed 50p—one had to travel that far. On Sundays father balancing sturdy cloth bags stuffed with groceries and vegetables on both sides of the cycle’s handle bar and also one on the rear carrier would arrive by noon, having left earlier in the day. We would rush out as we heard the tring tring of the bell to check out the goodies father brought. Those were the days when you could buy a kilo of Dasheri or Langda for Rs 5.
Years later the taste of Dasehri I had those June days still lingers in my mouth and my memories come afresh every summer when I chance upon this 18th century mango which first appeared in the gardens of Lucknow’s Nawab. When I decided to plant couple of dasheris on my farm I wanted to have the best and so didn’t source the saplings from the nursery closeby but from village Dasheri near Kakori, Uttar Pradesh, thanks to a friend who resides in Lucknow and visits Mumbai often. Fetching the four saplings at Dadar station, carrying it home travelling in the local train as commuters queried about its origin was a experience which I leave it for another post. For those not in the know the original Dasehri originated in the gardens of Late Syed Mohammed Anser Zaidi. The gardens are still owned by the descendants of Anser.
My farm friends are too biased when it comes to their favourite mango. So much so that they all have only one variety of mango: Alphonso or Haphus. Most of them, since their childhood have spent most of their growing up years in Maharashtra and cannot see beyond Haphus. I have an eclectic taste having spent my growing up years in North, South and Eastern parts of the country and thus exposed to varieties like Dasheri, Payeri, Langda, Kesar, Banganpalli, Malgova and others. Presently, I have around seven varieties of mangoes. My Dasheris have favoured me well this year and is followed by handful of Haphus. By next year I plan to include Nuzivedu(from Hyderabad), Himasagar and Malda (from Kolkatta) and others.