MUZAFFARPUR: South India is opening up to the taste of Bihar’s luscious Shahi litchis, courtesy, scientists of the National Research Centre on Litchi (NRCL), Muzaffarpur(Bihar).
The centre has developed a few varieties of the fruit, suitable for agro-climatic regions of south, especially Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, where pilot studies are on.
“We have planted nearly 25,000 saplings of the fruit on an experimental basis before weighing the result for commercial production. They have come up very well. So, we have decided to extend the area of the cultivation of litchi from this year,” said director, NRCL, Vishal Nath.
“A team of scientists from NRCL is camping at Dr YSR Horticulture University in AP and Tamil Nadu Agriculture University of TN. We are hopeful of reaping its rewards”, said Nath.
Notably, litchi requires a specific climate for flowering and fruiting. Thus, its commercial cultivation is limited to a few states located in certain latitudes. In Bihar, Shahi litchi is grown only in some specific area of north Bihar.
In the northern states, litchi fruits mature in the months of May and June. Contrary to this, they mature in the months of December and January in some of the non-traditional litchi growing regions of South India.
However, there are isolated instances of litchi being grown in south of the Vindhyas together with coffee plantations in parts of Coorg in Karnataka, Wayanad in Kerala and Lower Puleny hills, Kallar and Burliar of Nilgiri hills, besides some parts of Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu.
“To promote litchi in these area, we have supplied more than 20,000 litchi plants to growers, in the last couple of years. Now, we are planning to add 25,000 more saplings to get more areas under litchi cultivation,” said Nath.
However, there are concerns. Researchers are still struggling with irregular flowering, nutrient management, insect and pest control, attacks by bats and birds, besides technological issues, which are still to be solved.
Yet, litchi cultivation had enthused a huge number of cultivators down south and there was now real potential for off season litchi harvests, which would help in crop diversification and also enhance incomes of farmers deep south, said Nath.