| Sweet expectations |
Litchi lovers can now wait for more delicious treat next summer.
The required moderate rainfall during this monsoon has raised hopes for better produce of the luscious fruit in this part of the state. With sign of new leaves in the innumerable orchards following the rains, farmers are just keeping their fingers crossed.
Experts of National Litchi Research Centre, Mushahri, are also leaving no stone unturned in persuading litchi growers to go for scientific farming with preparing soil in the right earnest. For desired flowerings, the scientists have also appealed to the farmers to go for spraying of anti-pesticide in November-December.
Litchi orchards are largely spread across high-yielding districts in north Bihar — Muzaffarpur, Vaishali, Sitamarhi, Samastipur, East Champaran, West Champaran, Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Khagaria and Katihar — that are on the basin of the Budhi Gandak, Gandak and its streams and small tributaries.
It is considered that the trees normally gained roots from the monsoon rain and the chilly wind in January-February.
Pusa-based Rajendra Agriculture University’s metrological department deputy director Abdul Sattar said this year the litchis did not suffer for want of rain but the small proportion of rainfall really helped its fruition.
Normally, it requires only one or two spells of smart rainfall in the monsoon. During the flowering stage, the growers water the trees that are planted in a colony in an orchard.
According to statistics available with the state agriculture department, litchi is largely cultivated on approximately 35,000 hectares of land in north Bihar region with production of around 90,700 tonnes in a season.
Rajesh Kumar, senior scientist of National Litchi Research Centre, predicted that next season there would be a huge production of litchi as the farmers had already been trained and asked to adopt scientific method of farming. They are being requested to spray anti-fungal and anti-bacterial liquids to protect flowering and strengthening of the stems.
Normally, the farmers face dropping of litchi pinnacles owing to excessive heat and sunburn. Experts have told them to go for medicinal treatment of pinnacles and flowering stage of fruits. Non- application of therapeutic handling of fruits has resulted into disfiguring of the pinnacles with speckled body and physical deformities, said Bholanath Jha, a progressive farmer of litchi. Farmers and growers are being advised to go for spraying of anti-insecticides to protect the pinnacles from further dropping.
Scientist Kumar added that with sudden changes in weather, protecting the fruits became a hard task. Farmers have also been suggested for watering the trees and maintain cleanliness and dirt-free orchards to keep insects at bay.
The National Litchi Research Centre, with the initiative of National Horticulture Mission, New Delhi, has adopted scientific cultivation of new clone varieties of litchis brought from Thailand, Korea and Vietnam to Kanti and Minapur blocks of the district.
Under the supervision of scientists, these foreign clones of litchis have been grown here across 1,000 hectares to popularise its production. The centre has found that the litchis grown here are of export quality. A five-member team of farmers, led by a progressive grower Shahi Choudhary of Mustafapur village in Kanti block who also grew foreign varieties in his orchard under the banner of the Bihar Litchi Utpadak Sangh, now hopes to send consignments of foreign varieties to metro cities for lucrative returns.
The National Horticulture Mission has also decided to facilitate an outlet at metros for sale of foreign varieties with subsequent lucrative returns for the growers. “The foreign varieties of litchi will be less perishable and have a long shelf life. The pink litchis are also rich in pulp content,” said Vikram Sah of Jhapha village.
Focus on trees
The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana of the Union agriculture ministry has pumped in crores of rupees for rejuvenating old trees for boosting litchi.
Agriculture Technology Management Authority, a World Bank-funded agency, director Ram Praksh Sahni told The Telegraph that they have selected Muzaffarpur, considered as a fertile land for producing litchi, to rejuvenate the “aged trees”.
In Muzaffarpur, it has already started rejuvenating the plants with great keenness in Motipur, Saraiya, Minapur and Kanti blocks. So far, 900 trees have been rejuvenated in Sandha, Minapur, Pokhraira and Bansghat villages.
The farmers have also been educated about advantages of rejuvenation schemes.
The Union government has provided Rs 2,700 as subsidy money for rejuvenating each tree.
The trees are being pruned by chainsaw and pole-pruner — both the gadgets imported from Brazil.
After the rejuvenation, the plant will deliver rich quality and quantity of succulent and pulpy fruits to attract buyers in open markets. Old trees have stopped producing the quality that required in the market and it is infected with bugs, said Sahni.