Mango magic

Mango magic

It's mango time of the year! Karnataka, one among the top mango producing states in the country, is known for its diverse varieties, some grown exclusively in the State. Alphonso (Apus or Badami), Raspuri, Totapuri, Neelam, Mallika, Sindhura, Amrapali, Mundappa, Kari Ishad, Nekkare... the list of popular varieties is long. While some of them are indigenous, others have been adapted to local conditions.

In the past, many royal dynasties contributed to the of growth of mango in the State by introducing new varieties and setting up exclusive orchards. Post the dynasty rule, mango orchards gradually disappeared. However, efforts for the revival of mangoes began in the 1950s under the guidance of Dr M H Marigowda, the first director of the Department of Horticulture. He introduced mango cultivation in the dry lands of the State. "Mangoes were introduced to drought-proof the famine hit areas of Kolar and Chikkaballapur districts. Subsequently, commercial cultivation of mangoes spread to other areas of Karnataka as well," recalls Dr S V Hittalmani, former additional director, Horticulture Department.

Mango belts

Today, the State could be divided into three mango belts. The south belt, including Kolar, Ramanagara, Tumakuru, Bengaluru Urban and Bengaluru Rural, harvests 40% of Alphonso and 60% of Totapuri, Neelam, Banganapalle, Mallika and others.

The north belt, comprising Belagavi, Dharwad and Haveri, grows Alphonso variety exclusively. However, Banganapalle mangoes are grown in Bidar. "Apart from drought proofing, mangoes have also improved the rural economy," explains Hittalmani. The central belt, that includes parts of Chitradurga, Davanagere, Chikkamagaluru, Shivamogga and Hassan, harvests 50% of Alphonso variety and the rest of the share includes Totapuri, Banganapalle, Mallika and other types.

There are some popular local varieties like Kari Ishad, Mundappa and Nekkare in Malnad and coastal regions of the State. Apart from the pulpy ones, there are many wild varieties called kadu mavus, that are not cultivated systematically. These wild mangoes are valued for their distinct flavour, colour, taste and size. The uses also vary: while some are preferred as fresh fruit, some are good for juice, some are meant for pickling or used in cooking. Interestingly, each tree of kadu mavu bears distinct fruits and thereby, there are as many varieties as the number of trees. Now, these rare varieties are multiplied through grafting techniques.

The popular pickle mango variety, Appemidi, is extensively grown in Shivamogga and Uttara Kannada districts. Some of the trees have got iconic status owing to their flavour, keeping quality and even shape. "Certain trees bring an income to the tune of Rs 60,000 annually," reveals Shivananda Kalave, a researcher.

Heritage orchards

Certain places in the State have become synonymous with mangoes. Old orchards can be found in Ramanagara, Channapatna and Kanakapura areas. While Dharwad region is known as the land of Alphonso, Srinivasapur taluk in Kolar district is considered to be a mango haven. The mango mandis (wholesale mango markets) in this taluk are in their busiest best during the season. The region has mango orchards passed on for generations. One such place is Patapalli of Thimmasandra village. "From being cheated by traders to selling the produce at the local mandis, Patapalli orchard has moved a long way in the mango business," explains Ravindra, a techie who took over the proprietorship of the orchard with an aim to preserve the ancestral legacy.

He reveals the inside story, "While mango cultivation is suitable to the dry lands of Srinivasapur, it is not always profitable. Earlier, the farmers were exploited by the traders and were being offered only one-fifth of the actual price. As a result of this, most of the orchards in the region used to be leased out to the traders." There was a little hope when mango mandis became popular. Yet, these regulated markets are largely controlled by private traders.

Another heritage orchard, Bada Bagh, in Mandya district, has trees that are said to have been planted during Tipu Sultan's regime. As many as 120 varieties are spread across 20 acres. Syed Ghani Khan, who has inherited this wealth from his ancestors, has been preserving it with care and is proud about it. These varieties have been registered with the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research. He opines that mango growers need a nudge from the department to propagate local varieties. Apart from marketing locally, Syed exports mangoes to Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia through a private company.

While the Horticulture Department maintains over 400 fruit orchards, some of them are exclusively for mango. The department's orchard in Mysuru is one of the best examples of a well-maintained mango farm. Not-so-old, yet strongly rooted, high-yielding trees here bear quality Alphonso, Raspuri, Neelam, Dasheri, Totapuri, Ratna and Mallika varieties. The orchard preserves and effectively propagates quality varieties. "We are now taking the organic route. The orchard, with the support of farmers, is producing quality mango grafts that are being sold at a subsidised rate," says Mamatha Shashidhara, deputy director of horticulture, Mysuru. Farmers in different parts of the State are conserving unique varieties out of interest and concern, thus creating unique gene pools.

Fruit picking

Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Limited (Mango Board) has been striving for the promotion of mango cultivation and marketing. Dr Hittalmani explains, "It is a tough process to export mango as it has to undergo a step by step treatment including hot water treatment and gamma radiation. The toxicity level too should be below the enlisted maximum residue level and it is difficult to ensure that the growers follow these steps stringently." However, he adds, "The Mango Board has given license to selected, trained farmers, paving way for a methodical export set-up."

The board is also aiming to stop the artificial ripening of mangoes and is providing 50% subsidy for purchasing ethylene cans to be used for natural ripening of mangoes. C G Nagaraj, director of Mango Board, explains,"Last year, we had issued Global GAP certificates to farmers, covering 200 hectares of land. This year, the certification is done for nearly 1,000 hectares. We are hopeful of exporting 10,000 tonnes of mangoes this year. While Alphonso is the top variety in the State in terms of production and sale, pickle varieties are popular in Malnad."

The board has been organising mango picking tours in the State, which allows mango connoisseurs to pick their favourite varieties fresh from the orchards while gaining a wider perspective about the mango heritage. These tours are planned in the months of April and May.

 

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