Sharath S. Srivatsa
BANGALORE: Ever tasted a mango that has an overtone of sweet-lime or apple flavour? Bada Bagh orchards, managed by Syed Ghani Khan’s family at Kirugavulu in Malavalli taluk of Mandya district, boast rare varieties of mango trees that yield fruits with over 100 other unusual flavours.
The trees are not just horticultural wonders, but also those that have historical significance. They date back to the time of Tipu Sultan and have been harvested for about 200 years.
Spread over 20 acres of land, the plantation managed by Mr. Ghani has about 116 varieties of mango trees, most of which are not available in markets outside Kirugavulu. It is only recently that the mangoes were recognised for their singularity, when Mr. Ghani took them to the organic mango mela held in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.
“We sell the produce in the local market without any marketing support for such rare varieties. Bada Bagh was part of a large mango orchard that existed during Tipu’s regime,” Mr. Ghani told The Hindu. When the canal system was introduced to irrigate land in the area, farmers turned to paddy cultivation bringing about a drastic decline in orchards, he added. In fact, the yield from these old trees at times goes up to three tonnes.
Recognising the rich diversity in his orchards, Mr. Ghani sent data and documents to the New Delhi-based National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR). The bureau has numbered 116 trees and will take gene pool samples for research.
The varieties in Mr. Ghani’s orchards include Mangamari, Pikha Aam, Seb Ka Aam, Musambi Ka Aam, Aate Ka Aaam, Moti Ka Aam and others. There are also varieties that he harvests twice a year. “These trees require minimum maintenance, and I also cultivate paddy and sugarcane along with mangoes,” said Mr. Ghani. Krishnaprasad of Sahaja Samruddhi said, “After conducting DNA fingerprinting and gene mapping of these varieties, the Horticulture Department’s Biotechnology Centre at Hulimavu has found that each variety is unique.”