The influence of orchard management practices on productivity of mandarin orange with respect to age of the tree.

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INTRODUCTION

The Mandarins (Citrus reticulata Blanco.) belonging to the family Rutaceae represents the largest and most diverse group among the genus Citrus. The tree may be small to medium in size reaching upto 25 feet depending on the variety and grow in wide variety of environments from tropic to sub-tropics and some are found suitable growing even in temperate regions. Mandarin fruits range in colour, size and sweetness, and can have many or no seeds. Mandarins are known for their bright coloured peel and pulp, excellent flavor, distinctive loose skin and inner segments making them easy to peel. They are best eaten raw and fresh after harvesting.

The loose-skinned mandarin orange is one of the most economically important and popular fruits in the world (Chakraborty et al., 2011). There is strong demand both at national and international level owing to its worldwide acceptance and nutritional importance. It is usually consumed in raw form or in fruit salads as well as juice. They are also canned in syrup with segments and are used in fruit salads and other desserts or as fillings or decoration in cakes. Mandarin peel oil has an important position in food industry as a flavoring agent. It is used in sweets, gelatins, ice-cream, chewing gum, pastry and confectioneries. It is also used in soft drinks, mixers, essences and flavorings as well as in mandarin liquor and other alcohol products.

Mandarins are rich in ascorbic acid (13 – 54 mg per 100 g of edible portion) and Calcium (25 – 46 mg per 100 g of edible portion). They are a great source of Vitamin C. One orange actually has all the Vitamin C that one needs for the day. The water content in the fruit is almost 80 to 90 percent of edible portion. Mandarins are rich in vitamin A, B, C, phosphorus and citric acid.

The mandarin orange is considered as native of south-eastern Asia and the Philippines (Morton, 1987). The fruit is abundantly grown in Japan, southern China, India and Australia. Mandarins were grown in China and Japan on a large scale since the 16th century. Commercial production of mandarins started in the early 1900's. The fresh citrus market worldwide has dramatically changed in the past 20 years and the production has doubled from 13.7 million tonnes in 1991 to 26 million tonnes in 2011. Consumers now prefer easy-peeling, seedless, tasty mandarins with attractive rind color. As a result, mandarins are now the fastest growing sector of the fresh citrus industry in California and worldwide. Mandarin, its hybrids and relativestogether form the largest group in the genus Citrus. The number of commercially grown mandarin varieties in the world is more than 300 (Citruspages, 2015).

The top five mandarin producers in the world today are China,Spain, Turkey, Brazil, and Japan and the biggest mandarin exporters are Spain, China, Morocco, Turkey and South Africa. The world total production of mandarins is about 28.67 million tonnes covering an area of 2.89 million hactares area during 2013. China with 15.2 million tonnes of fruits in 2012-13 leads in production followed by Spain with 2.2 million tonnes and Turkey with 0.94 million tonnes respectively (FAOSTAT, 2015).

India ranks fourth (0.86 million tonnes) in the world in overall citrus production. Citrus occupies third place among fruits in India, after mango and banana in terms of production. The production of mandarin has increased from 1,660.1 thousand metric tonnes in 2001-02 to 3431.4 in 2013-14 thousand metric tonnes and thereby registering a compound growth rate of 5.74 per cent which was found to be significant at 5% probability level (Table 3). Similarly the productivity of mandarin was also found to increase from 8.3 t/ha in 2001-02 to 10.4 t/ha in 2013-14 with compound growth rate of 1.75 per which was found to be not significant at 5% probability level (NHB, 2015).

The important mandarin cultivars in India are Nagpur mandarin, Kinnow mandarin, Coorg Mandarin, Darjeeling Mandarin and Khasi Mandarin. Among the states Punjab has the highest production with 1017.7 thousand tonnes followed by Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan with 894.4, 742.5 and 229.9 metric tonnes respectively (Table 4). Area-wise Maharashtra with 135 thousand hectares has the highest area under cultivation followed by Madhya Pradesh and Punjab with 52.5 and 47.1 thousand hectares respectively. Karnataka has the highest productivity with 22.3 tonnes per hectare which is followed by Punjab with 21.6 tonnes per hectare and Rajasthan with 20.5 tonnes per hectare respectively (NHB, 2015).

The north-eastern states of India, viz. Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura is considered to be the natural home of many citrus species (Ghosh, 1977; Gupta and Yadav, 1999) and it is considered as a reservoir of various citrus species including mandarin orange (Tanaka, 1958; Bhattacharya and Dutta, 1956). Various forms have been found growing wild in Garo Hills of Meghalaya and Siang districts of Arunachal Pradesh (Borthakur, 1993). Among the north eastern states of India, Assam recorded highest production and productivity of mandarin orange (i.e. 188.08 thousand tonnes and 12.05 t/ha respectively) from an area of 15.67 thousand ha (NHB, 2015).

In Meghalaya, the production was 40.43 thousand tonnes from an area of 8.60 thousand hectare and the productivity was only 4.75 t/ha (NHB, 2015). In the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, var. Khasi Mandarin (Citrus reticulata Blanco.), a highly polyembryonic species is the most important and widely cultivated commercial variety of mandarin orange. Fruits are depressed, globose to oblate, medium size, loose skinned, bright orange yellow in colour, smooth surface, glossy, rind thick to medium, rind and segment easily separable, segments moderate in numbers, juice abundant, orange colour with sour-sweet blend and has good keeping quality (Ngachan et al., 2010 ). The fruits weigh 10.31 to 109.90 g, 7-14 °Brix of Total Soluble Solids (TSS), 0.67-1.31 per cent acidity, 1.83 to 3.95 pH, and total sugar 2.07 to 4.65 per cent and are grown on all the hilly tracks upto 1000 m above MSL. It is propagated mainly through seeds. Farmers usually sow seedlings right after harvesting on a prepared sand bed which is transplanted after 2-3 years during the rainy season. Some farmers also procured seedling from the Departments of Horticulture and the Department of Soil and Water Conservation, Government of Meghalaya. Some of the very old orchards are believed to be propagated by imported seeds from Burma by Britishers during the latter part of the 19th century. Other orchards are considered to be propagated by seeds from Assam and Kolkata during the middle part of the 20th century. Extensive exploration in the mandarin growing areas of Garo Hills reveals that most of the mandarin orchards of Garo Hills are neither planted nor managed scientifically. The seedlings are planted mostly in the old abandoned lands which were under shifting cultivation as well as homestead gardens. Proper orchard planning or layout was not carried out by the mandarin growers. They were left to grow without following any scientific intercultural operations like irrigation, plant protection measures, application of fertilizers etc.

Manual weeding was carried out twice a year to keep the orchard free of weeds. Pesticides, fungicides and herbicides are not used in the orchards and thus the fruits are free from harmful chemical residue. This opens up immense scope for converting these mandarin orchards under certified organic crop with planned scientific interventions. This may enhances the export potential of the crop. In some mandarin orchards, inter-cropping with arecanut, tea, coffee and banana is being practiced in the Garo Hills.

Mandarin is a highly remunerative and profitable fruit crop of the Garo Hills. Successful and profitable cultivation needs scientific management of the orchard as well as proper post-harvest management. To produce high quality fruits of export value, the physical and chemical parameters of the fruits should meet the international standards. The physico-chemical properties of a fruit determine the quality, nutritive value, suitability for processing industry; consumer acceptability etc. Physico-chemical properties of fruit viz. size, weight, TSS, juice content, total sugar, citric acid, vitamin C etc. are often influenced by various factors such as cultural practices followed; age of the trees; soil and plant nutrient status etc. So, it is inevitable that to produce high quality fruits cultural factors have to be managed scientifically.

Although agro-climatic conditions prevailing in Garo Hills is highly conducive for cultivation of mandarin oranges, however, the total production and productivity is relatively very low as compared to the national average. The farmers of Garo Hills cultivate mandarins extensively and produce 5,390 tonnes from an area of 2,064hectares. The average productivity of mandarin orange in the Garo Hills is 2.8 t/ha which is relatively too low as compared to the national average of 10.4 t/ha. In spite of favorable agro-climatic conditions the productivity of East Garo Hills (4.2 t/ha), West Garo Hills (2.2 t/ha) and South Garo Hills (2.1 t/ha) in 2011-12 (Govt. of Meghalaya, 2015) was very low and exhibit high degree of variations. The variation within the same region has drawn interest in the mind of the researcher to identify the cause of this variation. Studies made in different parts of the country reveal that productivity and quality of mandarin orange is influenced by several factors such as orchard management practices, age of the trees, soil and plant nutrient status, prevailing agro-climatic condition etc. Therefore it was felt that an exhaustive study on the factors affecting productivity may provide ample scope of improvement in the productivity of mandarin orange in Garo Hills. Keeping in view the above facts, the present study entitled ‘factors affecting physico-chemical properties and productivity of mandarin orange in Garo Hills, Meghalaya’ was taken up in the erstwhile three districts of Garo Hills viz. West Garo Hills, East Garo Hills and South Garo Hills during the year 2012-13 to 2013-14. However, during the year 2013 two more districts have been curved out from the erstwhile three districts viz. North Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills.

The present study was carried out with the following objectives –

  1. To study the influence of orchard management practices on productivity of mandarin orange with respect to age of the tree.
  2. To study the effect of soil and plant nutrient status on physico-chemical properties and productivity of mandarin orange in relation of age of the tree;
  3. To study the economic feasibility of mandarin orange production in the Garo Hills;

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