Jeevan Chinnappa

The Nagpur and the Coorg varieties are different eco-types

‘CHES has not certified Nagpur variety for use in Kodagu’

‘Research has indicated poor performance of this variety’

Madikeri: Close on the heels of the controversy involving supply of Nagpur orange plants to growers in Kodagu by the Department of Horticulture, the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), Bangalore, has asked growers in Kodagu to exercise caution over cultivating the Nagpur variety in place of the Coorg mandarin (orange).

A statement from IIHR director here on Thursday said that the Nagpur and the Coorg varieties were different eco-types suitable for cultivation in the respective areas. At no point of time research being conducted at the Chettalli Horticultural Experimental Station (CHES) in Kodagu, functioning under the IIHR, had certified that Nagpur orange was suitable for Kodagu, he said.

Research on Nagpur orange at the CHES had indicated poor performance of the Nagpur variety. The IIHR does not endorse that Nagpur mandarin is suitable for cultivation in regions where Coorg mandarin has been cultivated traditionally, the statement said. “Greening disease” was the main cause for extinction of the Coorg orange, which was given the GI tag recently. An Australian scientist visiting Kodagu in 1964 had warned growers against the disease. However, it was not taken seriously. The devastation of orange crops started in Kodagu in 1984.

Controversy had erupted after the Department of Horticulture here started supplying Nagpur orange plants to growers free by utilising funds under the National Horticulture Mission allocated to Kodagu. The Cauvery Sene, an organisation which fights for social causes, had brought the issue to the fore, protesting against the supply of Nagpur orange plants to growers in Kodagu.

As many as 81,000 Nagpur orange plants were targeted to be supplied in each of the three taluks in Kodagu. Of this, 90 per cent had been supplied, according to Department of Horticulture officials. The sene has asked the department to withdraw the plants supplied.

Surprisingly, efforts are reportedly being made by the Kodagu Zilla Panchayat here to project Nagpur orange as a “very suitable” variety for Kodagu. The panchayat president, V.M. Vijaya, vice-president Kanjitanda Anita and the former panchayat president, S.N. Raja Rao, had visited a particular farm in Hassan, close to the Kodagu border, a few days ago, to “certify” that the Nagpur variety was suitable to Kodagu.

“Results on whether Nagpur orange is suited for Kodagu or not could be known only after research and trials,” a source in IIHR, Bangalore, told The Hindu over telephone. Nagpur orange thrived in dry climate whereas Coorg orange was suitable for wet and moist climate, the source said. He wondered how could it be said that Nagpur orange was suitable for Kodagu without carrying out tests. The CHES was doing a good job in raising disease-free saplings but it was not enough to meet the needs of the growers. The IIHR was seeking government support to strengthen the research, production and supply of disease-free orange material.

An experiment to grow Nagpur orange in a particular area in Kodagu had failed some years ago. Kodagu had two or three types of agro-climatic conditions, the source pointed out. For instance, the Kushalnagar belt was a dry area. Growing Nagpur variety should be experimented under those different conditions to prove its worthiness, the source said. Hassan was also dry belt and if the orange crop had proved to be suitable there, it cannot be said of areas in Kodagu also, the source added.

The in-charge of the CHES, K. Shivaramu, said that there was demand for 40,000 budded orange plants in Kodagu annually, But the CHES was able to supply only 10,000 to 14,000 disease-free plants raised in poly-houses. Supply of disease-free plants had been going on since 1998. There were 300 “mother plants” at the CHES from which the production capacity could be raised to 50,000 plants per year from June next.

The Director of IIHR has promised to provide the required funds for this, Dr. Shivaramu said.