Low-chilling Himachal’s apple variety takes roots in plains

Shimla (IANS) A farmer from Himachal Pradesh has developed a self-pollinating apple variety that does not require long chilling hours for flowering and fruit setting.

Its plantation has now spread to plain, tropical, and subtropical areas across India where the temperature is as high as 40-45 degrees Celsius.

Commercial cultivation of this apple variety has been initiated in Manipur, Jammu, low-hills of Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Telangana among other states.

Progressive farmer and Class X passout Hariman Sharma of Paniala village in Bilaspur district has developed this apple variety named HRMN 99.

Besides apple, he has been growing mango, pomegranate, kiwi, plum, apricot, peach and coffee. The most interesting part of his farming practice is that he can grow apples along with mangoes in the same field.

He believes the farmers can start raising apple orchards in the lower valleys of Himachal Pradesh and elsewhere too.

In 1998, Sharma had purchased apples for consumption and had discarded the seeds in his backyard.

In 1999, he observed an apple seedling developed from the seeds disposed off by him. Being an innovative farmer with a keen interest in horticulture, he could sense that an apple plant growing at a warm place like Paniyala, situated 1,800 feet from the sea level, was extraordinary.

After a year, the plant started blooming, and he observed fruits in 2001. He preserved the plant as “mother plant” and started experimenting by grafting the scion (young shoot) and by 2005 created a mini orchard of apple trees that continue to bear fruits till today.

From 2007 to 2012, Hariman went around convincing others that growing apples in low-chilling conditions is no longer impossible.

Eventually, the innovative variety was scouted by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF)-India, an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology.

It verified the claims of the innovator and evaluated the distinctiveness and potentiality of the variety by facilitating molecular and diversity analysis studies and fruit quality testing.

The NIF also provided financial and technical support for establishing and expanding the nursery, besides aiding the registration of the variety under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001.

During 2014-2019, the multi-location trials of the variety in low-chilling areas were conducted by NIF by transplanting over 20,000 saplings at over 2,000 farmers’ fields and 25 organizations in 30 states, including Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi.

Fruit setting has been reported from 23 states and UTs. These are Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Puducherry, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

During research, it was observed that HRMN-99 plants having three-eight years of age produced five to 75 kg fruits per plant per year in four districts of lower Himachal Pradesh, Sirsa in Haryana and Manipur.

It is bigger in size compared to other varieties, with very soft, sweet, and juicy pulp and striped red over yellow skin colour during maturity.

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