UP govt eyes boosting mango export with higher yield and improved quality

Yogi govt waives departmental permission requirement for pruning mango trees to enhance quality, production

Lucknow: The mangoes of Uttar Pradesh are set to become even more special, thanks to a decision made by the Yogi government a few months ago, which seeks to both enhance the production and quality of mangoes in the state’s orchards.

The decision exempts UP’s farmers from the requirement of getting permission from any government department for pruning mango trees. Mango producers can simply carry out pruning of mango trees and reduce its height to enhance their productivity.

This decision simplifies canopy management for old mango orchards, and its positive effects will be evident in the coming years. Canopy management will rejuvenate old mango orchards, making them as productive as new ones.

As a result, not only will production increase, but the quality of the fruits will also improve, opening new doors for export opportunities.

It’s important to note that mango is a significant fruit in Uttar Pradesh. The state produces 4.5 million tons of mangoes from 260,000 hectares of cultivation. About 40 percent (roughly 100,000 hectares) of these orchards are over forty years old.

In the old orchards, the number of new leaves and branches essential for flowering and fruiting has diminished. In contrast, thick and tangled branches abound, preventing adequate light from reaching the interior.

These conditions lead to higher insect and disease infestations and make applying pesticides effectively challenging. Consequently, the sprayed medicine often doesn’t reach the inner parts of the trees, leading to increased pesticide use and environmental pollution. The productivity of such orchards is barely 7 tons per hectare, whereas well-managed orchards can yield 12-14 tons per hectare.

To address these issues, the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture has developed a proper pruning technique for renovating these mango trees.

This method, known as pruning of tertiary branches or table-top pruning, not only opens up the tree’s canopy and reduces its height but also promotes a healthier environment.

With this pruning technique, trees can start producing 100 kg per tree within just 2-3 years, all while reducing the need for excessive pesticide use.

“Mango” is special in its own right, earning the title of the king of fruits. It holds even greater significance for Uttar Pradesh, which ranks first in the country regarding mango cultivation area and production.

Varieties like Dussehri, Langra, Chausa, Amrapali, and Gaurjeet are renowned for their unique fragrance and taste.

Notably, orchards older than 15 years resemble jungles, with tree branches intertwined and competing for sunlight. This makes proper maintenance impossible, adversely affecting both production and quality. Canopy management is the only solution to this.

According to Dr Sushil Kumar Shukla, a senior scientist at the Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture (affiliated with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in Rehmankheda, Lucknow), scientifically managing the canopy of young plants and orchards over 15 years old from the time of planting will facilitate maintenance, timely protection, and measures for better flowering and fruiting. This approach will enhance both production and quality, increasing export opportunities.

One can cut the main stem at 60 to 90 cm in the beginning. This will give the rest of the branches a chance to grow better. In the initial years (1 to 5 years), you can also try to give the plants proper structure by tying these branches with string or hanging stones, etc.

In orchards with normal production capacity, where branches are starting to creep on neighboring trees, canopy management through pruning is essential. Proper canopy management at this stage can eliminate the need for future renovation.

To achieve this, inspection of trees and marking one or two branches, or parts of branches, in each tree that are centrally located and directly contribute to the tree’s height.

These marked branches or their parts need to be cut and removed from their parts at the point of origin. Using an electric, battery, or petrol-powered saw for this task saves labor and time and prevents the bark from tearing.

As a result, gardeners can see benefits as early as the following year. This process reduces the tree’s height, increases sunlight availability in the middle of the canopy, and enhances fruit quality.

It also improves air circulation, promotes new shoot growth that reaches maturity due to proper light, and reduces pest and disease infestations. Consequently, crop protection becomes easier.

This approach is crucial for orchards that are 30 years old or older, many of which become unproductive or unprofitable due to a lack of canopy management.

Replacing these orchards with new plantings is expensive, and land availability has decreased due to population growth.

According to Dr Sushil Kumar Shukla, instead of cutting all the main branches at once in December-January for canopy management, the main branch that grows straight upwards and blocks light needs to be removed.

“Then, select 4-6 well-spread branches across the tree. In the first year, cut the two branches located in the middle. In the second year, cut the following two branches; in the third year, cut the remaining one or two branches on the outermost side. Additionally, unproductive shallow branches or infested with pests and diseases should be removed”, he stated.

“Apply a paste of copper sulfate, lime, and water in a ratio of 1:1:10, 250 ml linseed oil, and 20 ml insecticide on the cut area. Paste of cow dung and clay can also be an option, he added.

In this way, in the initial years of cutting, 50 to 150 kg of fruits per tree are obtained from the remaining branches, and in about three years, the tree again becomes smaller in size and starts bearing fruits.

He cautioned against cutting all the branches of such orchards at once, making it difficult to protect the trees from stem borer insects, resulting in a 20 to 30 percent plant mortality rate.

“To prevent Gujiya insects, dig around the tree trunks and apply 250 grams of Chlorpyrifos to each tree. Tie a polythene strip around the stems and irrigate the orchard to protect it from frost. If fertilizer hasn’t been applied, provide each tree with 2 kg of urea, 3 kg of SSP, and 1.5 kg of muriate of potash”, he remarked.

Scientific canopy management and proper maintenance have the potential to transform about 50,000 hectares of orchards in the state. This could lead to a significant increase in mango production by approximately 2.5 lakh tonnes, inspiring a brighter future for orchard owners and workers.

The primary challenge in canopy management or renovation is the lack of skilled workers. The Central Institute of Subtropical Horticulture offers training to interested youth, teaching them how to use and maintain electric, battery, or petrol-operated saws. This training can help young people increase their income, while the benefits of effective garden management will be an additional advantage for gardeners.