Kerala

A lifeline for indigenous mango varieties

While most Malayalis are familiar with Alphonso, a premium GI-tagged mango variety from Maharashtra, they may not have tasted Kalkanda vellari, Kolambi, or Muthalamookkan.

Though Kerala boasts of a wide range of indigenous mango varieties, many of them are on the verge of extinction. Now, the Farming Systems Research Station, Sadanandapuram, under Kerala Agricultural University, has launched a three-year programme to preserve the endangered breeds.

“Kerala has the highest number of native varieties known as nattu mavu. Mango trees are felled for making funeral pyre and very often rare breeds get axed. There are numerous nameless varieties in rural Kerala and we will be first focussing on the four southern districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, and Kottayam,” says B.Bindu, assistant professor, who heads the project.

The project, funded by the Department of Environment and Climate Change, will map all indigenous trees in backyards, farms, orchards, and public places as the first step in preserving their diversity. Later, as per the scientific procedure, their flowering and fruiting will be documented in order to catalogue them.

“Mango trees are one species largely affected by climate change. So, we will need to find good varieties that are also resistant to climate change and then all such scattered breeds will be brought together at the research station. After conducting etymological studies, they will be made available to farmers and the public,” she says.

In the next phase, based on a standard procedure that uses different variables such as thickness of skin, flesh content, and sweetness, the trees will be catalogued.

“There are native varieties that are sweeter than honey while some others are suitable for pickles. Pulpy versions are used for making juice and mango preserve,” she says. After selecting the right trees, they will be grafted to cultivate the prototype and mother plant for conservation. “You can’t always grow the same variety using the seed.”

Prof. Bindu adds that Kollam and Alappuzha have more varieties and there are trees with local names and even names of individuals. “Identifying and documenting them will require a lot of time and effort.”

The research team will also be looking at the wild varieties in forest areas. “The towering mango trees seen in the wild can be grafted and grown in farms with appropriate pruning. The project aims to offer all high-yielding, rare and climate-resistant native varieties to farmers,” she says.

Public can help

Farmers and individuals who want to conserve any particular indigenous variety can contact the station at 8137840196.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 1:34:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/a-lifeline-for-indigenous-mango-varieties/article33225132.ece

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