History & Culture

The King in a new avatar

Fruit scientist M Sankaran, who is behind the release of a new variety of mango, says he has always been interested in agriculture

While we bid goodbye to the mango season with the totapuris, badami and Neelam doing their last rounds in the market, Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR) has released its latest variety, Arka Suprabath, much to the delight of fruit connoisseurs.

Developed by crossing four different varieties, the Arka Suprabath tree is said to live for up to 60 years, according to M Sankaran, principal scientist, Division of Fruit Crops, IIHR. “This variety has been tested in our institute at Hesaraghatta for the last 10 years for taste, colour and flavour,” says Sankaran, who after his post-graduation in Horticulture from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore, pursued PhD in Fruit Science at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi.

Sankaran, who is part of the team behind the research, with scientist C Vasugi and IIHR Director MR Dinesh, spoke to MetroPlus about the new mango.

Excerpts:

Can you trace the path of Arka Suprabath’s development?

Mango is a highly cross-pollinated and heterozygous crop, which means it is difficult to get all the desired characters/traits in a single variety. So, we developed Arka Suprabath to combine the best of Amrapali (for pulp, colour, taste and bearing) and Arka Anmol (for size and colour).

How many strains have gone into its creation? What can its taste and colour be compared to?

It is a double-cross hybrid developed by using parents Amrapali (which is a cross of Dashehari and Neelam) and Arka Anmol (which is a cross of Alphonso and Janardhan Pasand). Arka Suprabath is a rare variety as it has got Alphonso shape with the pulp colour of Amrapali. Tastewise, it is sweet with less acidic properties (0.12%). Its deep orange firm pulp is less fibrous than other varieties. Alphonso tends to show irregular bearing after 15 to 20 years of cultivation, but Arka Suprabath grows consistently in bunches.

How long was the study on the yield, and when will you release them for commercial growing with farmers?

This variety was planted in replicated yield trials since 2009. It underwent more than 10 years of evaluation. The variety and technology identification committee of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) AND IIHR had recommended its release in 2019. But it will take four years for the crop to be available commercially. We are trying to popularise this variety through ICAR-Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and state agricultural universities.

Are you distributing the seeds to farmers already?

We are planning to license this variety to the National Horticulture Board accredited nurseries/entrepreneurs for large scale multiplication and supply. At ICAR-IIHR, we are planning to distribute Arka Suprabhath to the State Horticulture Departments and other government institutions.

What are the advantages in terms of yield for farmers?

It can be planted at a spacing of 5 x 5m (400 plants/ha), whereas the Alphonso needs 7.5 x 7.5m spacing (175plants/ha), more than doubling the yield, with increased plant population. This variety would also fetch a good price, as it is perfectly suitable for export with no internal breakdown even with hot water treatment.

Tell us about your other assignments?

Before joining IIHR in 2014, I served at ICAR-Central Island Agricultural Research Institute, Port Blair, where I was associated with developing high yielding varieties of coconut, mango and papaya. I have characterised and catalogued 170 mango and 21 pummelo accessions (a single, collected variety or cultivar of a plant) conserved in the field gene bank at ICAR-IIHR. Currently, I am working on mango and pummelo improvement schemes to develop new varieties for present soil and climate conditions.

(This column features people who have exchanged their cubicles for the open fields)

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 6:57:50 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/new-variety-mango-arka-suprabath-mango-of-indian-institute-of-horticulture-research-iihr/article28823061.ece

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