This farmer from Kirugavalu village in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district has preserved 116 mango trees dating back to the times of the then Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan.
Carbon dating and other scientific assessment by the Genetics and Plant Breeding Department of the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore, have shown that these trees are more than 200 years old.
This 20-acre orchard, popularly known as ‘Bada Bagh’, is said to have been raised by those in the palace of Tipu, who was a great lover of fruits, especially mangoes. The orchard was later gifted to a farmer by Tipu. Syed Ghani Khan (39), who has inherited this from his forefathers, is preserving it with care.
According to Mr. Khan, the trees yield exotic varieties of fruits. “While some trees yield fruits that taste like sweet lime, others produce fruits with cumin flavour. There are some trees that yield fruits resembling the shape of fish,” he said.
In great demand
Till recently, his family used to sell the fruits locally. But from the last two years, he has been selling the fruits at organic outlets in Mysore apart from exporting them to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where they are in great demand and also fetch a premium price.
In fact, Mr. Khan, who was passionate about becoming a curator at an archaeological museum, he did his graduation in archaeology and museology. But he had to return to his native village from Mysore to take care of his farm and support his family after his father became bedridden due to an ailment. “I then decided to turn my exotic farm itself into a live museum and started working on it,” he said.
Paddy varieties too
Mr. Khan also pursues another avocation passionately. He collects native varieties of paddy and grows them mainly to preserve those rare varieties. “Presently, I have a collection of about 600 native varieties of paddy, including ‘rakta dham’, ‘naadikeli’ and ‘jugal’,” he said.
His efforts paid off as his farm caught the attention of Delhi-based Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority, which has started registration of the exotic varieties of mangoes in the garden. He will get legal right over the plant species after the registration.
Mr. Khan was also honoured with the ‘Plant Genome Saviour Farmer Recognition’ award by the authority in 2012.
Mr. Khan now wants other farmers to grow these rare varieties of mangoes. He, however, is unable to take up propagation of these rare varieties systematically by constructing a poly-house as it requires big investment. As none of the government agencies offered him any help, Mr. Khan himself started an organisation to train farmers and students about local varieties of crops.
He is looking forward to getting government assistance to take his mission forward and ensure that these exotic varieties of mangoes are grown in the orchards of many more farmers.