Once reluctant, MP warms up to pomegranate
Madhya Pradesh has suitable agro-climatic conditions but was among the states where farmers were reluctant to grow the fruit in the absence of consolidated information on practices related to cultivation and post-harvest management. Suddenly, the state has warmed up to the idea and plans to bring 10,000-hectares under commercial cultivation over the next five years. At present, it's grown only over 1500 hectares.
The high value horticulture crop, despite its known medicinal properties, found favour with only a handful of farmers in the state, which depends heavily on neighbour Maharashtra, where it's cultivated over more than 80,000 hectares. Karnataka in second position grows it over 14,000 hectares. Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana too grow the crop but are streets behind Maharashtra.
A few months ago, MP's department of horticulture and food processing brought together scientists from states and agriculture universities and heard their lectures on various aspects of pomegranate cultivation. Collating that information with the experience of field staff, the department has tried to identify the best areas for plantation, planting practices, post-harvest management and potential for sales to maximise profits for farmers.
The experts concluded that MP was most suited for varieties like Arakta, Bhagwa and Ganesh that have an eye-catching colour. The fruits are larger and more juicy. Farmers in Shajapur, Khargone, Khandwa, Dhar, Dewas, Ratlam, Ujjain and Vidisha have already begun cultivation.
"The state has a tremendous potential for commercial cultivation because it's an economical crop that can tolerate high temperatures. Its leaves are waxy and the rate of transpiration is low,'' said Dr S S Tomar, director (research services) of Jawaharlal Nehru Agriculture University, Jabalpur. Due to its spiny nature, the crop is less prone to pest attacks.
The entire tree is of great economic and therapeutic importance and its parts are variously used in the pharmaceutical, leather and dyeing industries. Apart from pomegranate demand as fresh fruit and for juice, processed products like wine and candy also have a market in the world.
A horticulture department official admitted MP farmers had no awareness about the high-value crop and had shown little interest because the state government had not pushed it before. Beneficiaries selected under NHM and National Mission on Micro-irrigation will be provided drip irrigation facilities and protective farming techniques like green shade houses.
A hardy crop that grows in varied climatic conditions and altitudes; grows best in semi-arid climate where cool winter and hot summer prevail
In areas of low temperature it's deciduous, whereas in tropical and subtropical condition it is evergreen
During fruit development and ripening, requires a hot and dry climate
Commercial orchards can be established up to an altitude of 500m above mean sea level
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