Aam (आम), the king is benign
Summer brings nature’s best gift
Aam (आम), king of fruits is benign. The choicest varieties of mango have flooded the markets in Bihar and Jharkhand. The world-famous Dudhia Maldah occupies the crown though its greenish variants also try to pass on as the king. The creamy white complexion with a jutting nose waters every mouth.
Fruit markets all over the twin states are flooded with juicy mangoes. Sweet aroma of ripe mangoes perforce attracts the passers-by to at least have a look at the majesty of the king. Amrapali (named after the famous Nagarbadhu (courtesan girl) of Vaishali, who had subsequently became a Buddh disciple), Sipia, Bombaia, Zardalu, Lagara, Fazali, Mithua, Chousa, Dasahari, to name a few, are there in their majestic best. Biju varieties are there to complete the circle. A new entrant to the galaxy of mangoes is Himsagar. Ripe Sukul wraps up the season with its pulpy savouring. Green Sukul that comes in early rainy season makes the best pickles.
Connoisseurs can really enjoy the nature’s precious gift. Price would be no dampener. The choicest varieties of mango are available below Rs. 50 a kilo. Bijus can be had for Rs. 20 or so while the not-so-popular variants are available around Rs. 30. Of course, the king among the kings would demand a king’s price. Tree-ripe Dudhia Maldah is a rare thing now. Even the carbide-ripened Dudhia Maldah can be quoted any where between Rs. 70 and Rs.80 a kilo. Whatever may be the pricing pattern, it is the gala time for the mango-lovers.
It is peculiar to note that nature’s bounty comes and comes in abundance but every alternate year. Horticulturists and scientists have not succeeded so far to make it an annual feature. The trees or branches do not bear fruits every year. This time happens to a fruit-bearing year. The mango yield has gone up by four times over the last year in Bihar and Jharkhand. Nature’s fury has not been able to upset the apple cart though typhoons have wrought havoc in many areas. In certain pockets of North Bihar, most important mango and litchi production centre, have suffered extensive damage. In its eastern districts of north Bihar, ruin to tiny mango fruits (tikola) has been up to 75 per cent. The horticulturists had forecast a bumper yield of mangoes this year. Over 80,000 tonnes of fruit is expected to be harvested this year, compared to 15,000-20,000 tonnes last year in Jharkhand alone. The Bihar yield would be nothing less than three times more than in the tribal state. The mango season had started with South India mangoes but Bihar-Jharkhand mangoes soon took over the command.
Scientist said that the main reason for the high yield was favourable floral induction temperature (11°C to 14°C in October-November), which helped more flowers grow. Mango is a sub-tropical fruit, which grows on any kind of soil. In Jharkhand, as part of the National Horticulture Mission, new mango trees (Amrapali variety) have been planted on over 30,000 hectares. An intensive plantation drive had also been carried out as a part of state-sponsored schemes like Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana.
Going by data collected by horticulturists, the yield of popular mango varieties, like Amrapali and Malika, varies between 12 and 14 tonnes per hectare. Where there is high density cultivation, ie effective utilisation of land with trees planted close to each other, the yield is close to 25 tonnes per hectare. For varieties like Himsagar, Dasahari and Langra, the yield is six tonnes per hectare.
Though buoyed by the high yield, scientists warned that due to high temperature, retention would be difficult. The remedy suggested was watering the trees every four or five days, followed by adopting the Milch technique, which entails covering the ground with straw to prevent evaporation. The researchers suggested that the Kesar variety of mango, which is grown in Gujarat, could also be cultivated in Jharkhand and parts of Bihar for export to West Asia.
Meanwhile, Bhagalpur zone has emerged as a major mango producing area in recent years. Darbhanga that once ruled the mango production has lost its sheen. The twin districts of Darbhanga and Madhubani, bordering the Himalaya nation of Nepal were known for ‘Aam (mango), Paan (betel leaf) and Makhaan ( annesleia spinosa or seed of water-lily)’.But, mainly because of embankments to cage and tame a large network of rivers flowing down the Himalayas, ruined the mango groves. Such dense were the orchards that sunrays would not penetrate them. Those days are now in the pages of history or people’s dream. Similarly, the jungle of cement-concrete has written the epitaph of Digha’s Dudhia Maldah. This rare variety is grown in the west-southern parts of Patna. But this area too is shrinking as the state capital is moving fast in the west and south direction.