Mango genes find a storage - Germplasm bank near Dhenkanal preserves extinct varieties

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  • Published 23.06.14

Bhubaneswar, June 22: Odisha is home to 264 varieties of mangoes, some of which — such as Hamilton Sundari, Himsagar, Kalija Munda, Baldev and Kuanri — are facing the threat of extinction.

The state’s mango heritage is now being preserved at a germplasm bank near Saptasajya near Dhenkanal, about 100km from here in the first such initiative by the state government.

A germplasm is a collection of genetic resources for an organism. For plants, the germplasm may be stored as a seed collection, while for trees, in a nursery.

Spread over 20 acres, the facility boasts of 78 mango varieties found in various parts of the state. A joint venture of state directorate of horticulture and the Central Horticulture Experiment Station, Ainginia, which functions under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the Saptasajya germplasm bank will serve as a live gene bank for indigenous mango varieties.

Principal scientist and head of the Central Horticulture Experiment Station H.S. Singh said: “The germplasm bank will be a repository of all the elite and popular mango varieties of the state. Gene banks generally store seeds but since mango kernels cannot be preserved, we will have plants of different varieties in an orchard.’’

Horticulture directorate data reveal that the country boasts of 1,000 indigenous varieties of mango, of which Odisha alone has 264. Some of these — such as Hamilton Sundari, Himsagar (Mayurbhanj district), Kalija Munda, Baldev & Kuanri (Keonjhar district) — are endangered.

Known for their unique taste and colour, some of the mango varieties from the state are quite popular. Of these, Amrapalli is being marketed by Safal, a venture initiated by the National Dairy Development Board in New Delhi. Dashehari mangoes from Odisha are the biggest in size in the Indian market, claims the state horticulture directorate.

“Odisha mangoes get directly shipped to Bangladesh. But, export to other countries such as the US, the UK, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates takes place via Delhi, Lucknow and Bangalore-based traders because of the absence of direct international air cargo facility and handling of such cargo at the ports,” said horticulture director Sanjeev Chadha.

The Saptasajya centre will also work on developing market varieties besides propagating endangered varieties. It will also work to popularise mango varieties such as Totapuri (with a high pulp content) with an eye on mango-based food processing industry.

“Every year, the state government is organising mango festival in the city, but the germplasm bank is going to help all of us to preserve good varieties of the king of fruits,’’ said Pinku Rai, a mango connoisseur from Bhubaneswar.

Apart from Odisha’s new mango germplasm centre, institutes such as the Central Institute for Sub-tropical Horticulture, Lucknow, the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore and the Horticultural and Agro-forestry Research Programme, Plandu, near Ranchi, have mango germplasm banks. All the germplasm banks are, however, under the control of the ICAR. Besides, several agriculture universities also have mango germplasm banks.