(A) TROPICAL AND SUB-TROPICAL FRUITS
Banana. Banana (Musa paradisiaca L.) occupies over 1,64,000 hectares, mainly in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar. Though some inferior types of banana are found growing as far north as the Himalayas, its commercial importance is mainly limited to the more tropical conditions, such as those prevailing in central, southern and north-eastern India. It is a moisture- and heat-loving plant and cannot tolerate frost or arid conditions.
VARIETIES. Cultivated varieties are broadly divided into two groups : table and culinary. Among the former are ‘Poovan’ in Madras (also known as ‘Karpura Chakkarekeli’ in Andhra Pradesh); ‘Mortaman’, ‘Champa’ and ‘Amrit Sagar’ in West Bengal; ‘Basrai’, Safed Velchi’, Lal Velchi’ and ‘Rajeli’ in Maharashtra; ‘Champa’ and ‘Mortaman’ in Assam and Orissa; and ‘Rastali’, ‘Sirumalai’, ‘Chakkarekeli’, ‘Ney Poovan’, ‘Kadali’ and ‘Pacha Nadan’ in southern India. ‘Basrai’, which is known under different names, viz. ‘Mauritius’, ‘Vamankeli’, ‘Cavendish’, ‘Governor’, ‘Harichal’, is also grown in central and southern India. Recently, the ‘Robusta’ variety is gaining popularity in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The ‘Virupakshi’ variety (Hill banana) is the most predominant variety in the Palni Hills of Tamil Nadu. Among the culinary varieties, Nendran bananas, ‘Monthan’, ‘Myndoli’ and ‘Pacha Montha Bathis’ are the leading commercial varieties in southern India. ‘Gros Michel’ is a recent introduction into southern India; it is suitable for cultivation only under garden-land conditions and is generally fastidious in its cultural requirements. It is not, therefore, in favour with the cultivation.
PROPAGATION AND PLANTING. Propogation is by suckers or off-shoots which spring at the base of a banana-tree from underground rhizomes. Vigorous suckers, with stout base, tapering towards the top and possessing narrow leaves, are selected for plant. Each sucker should have a piece of underground stem with a few roots attached to it.
Banana suckers can be planted throughout the year in southern India, except during summer, whereas in the rest of the country, the rainy season is preferred. They are planted in small pits, each just enough to accommodate the base of a sucker. The planting-distance varies from 2m X 2m in the case of dwarf varieties to 4m X 4m in the case of very tall varieties.
MANURING. An application of 20 to 25 kg of farmyard manure, together with about 5 kg of wood-ashes per plant is given at planting time. In southern India, ammonium sulphate is applied one month, five months and nine months after planting 20 kg per hectare each time. In western India, a little over 2 kg of oilcake per stool is applied during the first three months after planting. A complete fertilizer mixture may be applied to supply 100 to 200 kg of N, 100 to 200 kg of P2O5 and 200 to 400 kg of K2O per hectare. A green-manure crop is also considered beneficial. Trials at the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research have shown that for the ‘Robusta’ variety, a fertilizer mixture comprising 180 g of N + 108 g of P2O5 + 225 g of K2O per plant is ideal.
AFTER-CARE. The removal of suckers, dry leaves and pseudostems, from which the fruits have been harvested, constitute the main after-care. Daughter-suckers should be removed promptly until the mother-plant flowers, when one daughter-sucker may be allowed to take its place. The removal of dry leaves and useless pseudostems requires to be done in time. After all the fruits are formed, the pendant portion of the remaining inflorescence along with the heart should be removed.
The propping of plants with bamboo poles, especially those which have thrown out bunches, is necessary wherever damage by wind is apprehended. Where the wind damage is recurring, dwarf varieties should be preferred.
IRRIGATION. The banana-plants require very heavy irrigation. Irrigation is given in most places once in seven to ten days. Stagnation of water in the soils is not very congenial to the proper growth of banana and, hence, the drainage of soil is also essential.
HARVESTING. Early varieties commence flowering in southern and western India about seven months after planting, and the fruits take about three months more to ripen. In the Andhra Pradesh delta areas, the fruits are ready for harvesting about seven to eight months after planting. The first crop of the ‘Poovan’ variety matures in 12 to 14 months and the second in 21 to 24 months after planting. In other parts of India, the first crop is usually gathered a year after planting, whereas the succeeding crop may be ready in six to ten months thereafter.
The bunch is harvested just before it attains the ripening stage. When the fruits have reached the full size, they become plump, and mature with a distinct change in colour. For long transport, the bunch may be harvested somewhat earlier. The bunch is cut, retaining about 15 cm of the stem above the first hand. The yield varies considerably from 26,000 to 55,000 kg per hectare.
CURING AND MARKETING. The ripening of banana is done in several ways, e.g. exposing the bunches to the sun, placing them over a hearth, wrapping them in closed godowns or smoking them in various ways. One of the common ways is to heap the fruits in a room and cover them with leaves, after which fire is lit in a corner and the room is closed and made as air-tight as possible. Ripening takes place usually in 30 to 48 hours. In a cool store, the bunches ripen well at about 15oto 20oC. The application of vaseline, a layer of clay or coal-tar to the cut-ends of the stalks prevents rotting during ripening and storage.
Wrapping up the fruits and packing them in crates help to reduce the damage during transport.
Mango. Mango (Mangifera indica L.) occupies nearly half of the total area under fruits in the country. It is adaptable to a wide range of soil and climatic conditions and grows well right from Assam to the southern-most limits of the country and from the sea-level up to about 1,500 metres. It withstands both fairly dry conditions and heavy rainfall, provided severe and recurring frosts in winter do not endanger the young trees.
VARIETIES. The number of varieties is very large. Each variety has its own peculiar taste, flavour and consistently of pulp. Some of the important commercial varieties grown in different regions are : ‘Bombay yellow’, ‘Alphonso’, ‘Gopal Bhog’, ‘Zafran’ (all early), ‘Langra’, ‘Desheri’, ‘Safeda Lucknow’, ‘Safeda Malihabad’, ‘Fajrizafrani’ (all mid-late). ‘Fajri’, ‘Same Bihisht’, ‘Chausa’, ‘Taimura’ (all late). In Uttar Pradesh; ‘Bombai’, ‘Alphonso’, ‘Hemsagar’, ‘Krishna Bhog’, ‘Aman Dasheri’, ‘Gulab Khas’ (all early), ‘Langra’, ‘Aman Abbasi’, ‘Khasul-Khas’ (all mid-late), ‘ Sinduri’, ‘Sukal’, ‘Taimuria’ (all late) in Bihar; ‘Bombai’ or ‘Maldah’, ‘Gopal Bhog’, ‘Hemsagar’ (all early), ‘Krishna Bhog’, ‘Zardalu’ (both mid-late), ‘Murshidabadi’, ‘Fazli Maldah’ (both late) in West Bengal; ‘Alphonso’, ‘Pairi’, ‘Cowsji Patel’, ‘Jamadar’ in Bombay; ‘Swarnarekha’, ‘Benishan’, ‘Cherukurasan’, ‘Panchadarkalasa’, ‘Desavathiyamamidi’, ‘Sannakulu’, ‘Nagulapalli’, ‘Irsala’ in Circars; ‘Rumani’, ‘Neelum Benishan’, ‘Bangalore’, ‘Alampur Benishan’ in Rayalaseema; ‘Murshidabadi’, ‘Mulgoa’, ‘Goabunder’, ‘Benishan’, ‘Neelam’, ‘Totapuri’ or ‘Bangalora’ in Telengana; ‘Alphonso’, ‘Peter’, ‘Rumani’ in central districts; ‘Mundappa’, ‘Neelam’, ‘Alphonso’, ‘Olour’, ‘Bennet Alphonso’, ‘Kalepad’, ‘Peter’, ‘Fernandin’ in Coorg and Karnataka; and ‘Padiri’, ‘Alphonso’, ‘Peter’, ‘Neelum’, ‘Bangalore’, ‘Rumani’ in Tamil Nadu. In Goa, some excellent varieties like ‘Alphonso’, ‘Fernandin’, ‘Mankurad’ and ‘Moussorate’ are under cultivation. The new mango variety, ‘Mallika’ evolved at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute is now gaining popularity.
Other varieties, such as ‘Jehangir’ and ‘Himayuddin’, produce high-quality fruits, but are poor in yield and cropping tendencies. Attempts are being made to evolve hybrid progenies by crossing.
PROPOGATION AND PLANTING. Propogated vegetatively by inarching or budding in situ in the nursery, either by using Forkert or by using the T-method. The beginning of the monsoon in light-rainfall areas and the end of the monsoon in heavy-rainfall regions are the most suitable periods for inarching or budding. Recently, veneer-grafting has been found to be the best method of mango propagation. Grafted plant are ready for transplanting in the field after six to twelve months. Select straight-growing grafts and set them in pits filled with soil mixed with farmyard manure (45 kg) and a fertilizer mixture containing 0.225 kg of N, 0.45 kg of P and 0.225 kg of K per pit. The planting-distance is 7.5 to 9 metres in poor shallow soils and 15 to 17 metres in deep fertile soils. The beginning of the monsoon in low rainfall areas or the end of the monsoon in heavy rainfall tracts is the best time for planting. The graft-joint should be at least 15 cm above the ground.
PRUNING. No systematic pruning is done. The removal of dead-wood and the thinning of over-crowded and mis-shapen branches after about four years is all that is necessary; flowers that appear during the first three or four years should be removed.
CULTURE. Before planting, the field is ploughed, harrowed and levelled. Thereafter, it is ploughed and harrowed twice a year, once in the beginning of the monsoon and again at the close of the rainy season or in the cold-weather. It is green-manured once every two or three years. Short-season intercrops, like vegetables, may be taken during the first four to five years. Young plants require irrigation regularly. After five to six years, when they have established themselves, the trees are able to grow and fruit satisfactorily without irrigation in most parts of Peninsular India. In northern India, they have to be irrigated throughout their life. Irrigation is usually withheld during the cold weather before flowering, especially in deep retentive soils. Though the exact manurial requirement is not known, regular manuring is beneficial. The dose recommended for the bearing trees is 45 to 70 kg of farmyard manure, 0.5 to 0.7 kg of N, 0.7 kg to 1.0 kg of P and 1.2 to 1.5 kg of K per tree. Nitrogen and half of potash may be given before the monsoon, and farmyard manure, phosphate and half of potash in October or before flowering starts.