Patna: The delectably sweet and juicy litchi, hitherto a summer fruit, is now being cultivated in winter, thanks to a successful experiment in two southern states by the Bihar-based National Research Centre for Litchi (NRCL), an official said.
"It may sound unexcepted but it is true that bumper production of litchis was recorded in different orchards in Karnatka and Kerala this winter. It is the result of a five-year-long experiment by NRCL scientists," its director, Vishal Nath, told IANS.
This is not the first time litchis have been harvested in the two states but what stands out this time is the quantum and the quality.
"We have no record of the actual yield but it is certainly a bumper crop going by the reports from the ground," the director of the Muzaffarpur-based NRCL said. Muzaffarpur accounts for more than 62 percent of the country`s litchi production, down from a high of 70 percent.
Nearly 700 acres of land are currently under litchi cultivation in two southern states. There are some 40 litchi trees in each acre of land, with each tree yielding 1.5 to 2 quintals of the fruit.
"We are providing all kinds of help to farmers including technical and marketing support and training. Some progressive farmers visited our Muzaffarpur centre to learn more about litchi cultivation," Vishal Nath said.
He said the climate and other conditions were favourable for litchi cultivation during winter in the two states. The plants start flowering in September and fruit starts maturing in December and this continues till January.
The harvesting season in the northern states runs from April to July.
According to the director, a team of NRCL scientists had identified the places in the two states. "They studied the prospects and potential of litchi cultivation by testing the soil and studying the flowering, fruiting and yield of litchi trees."
"The litchis produced in the southern states are as sweet and juicy as that in Muzaffarpur in the summer season," Vishal Nath said, adding that the fruit was selling for Rs.350 per kg.
"As winter is an off-season for litchis, the demand in the market is high," he said.
The NRCL is now scouting for new areas for litchi cultivation in the country.
"The NRCL, in collobaration with (Bangalore-based) Indian Institute of Horticulture Research will experiment with lichi cultivation in different parts of the country, including other southern states," Vishal Nath told IANS.
"This will boost litchi cultivation in the country and also provide more opportunities to farmers to also sell their produce in the international market," he added.
Other states where litchis are grown are Uttarakhand (24 percent production),
West Bengal (8 percent) and Punjab (6 percent). Last year`s total yield was 5.28 million tonnes.