Cultivation of apples is now not confined only to cold hilly areas because a farmer from Himachal Pradesh has developed an innovative self-pollinating variety 'HRMN-99' that does not require long chilling hours for flowering and fruit setting.

A spokesperson of the Union Ministry of Science and Technology informed on Saturday said that even in plain, tropical, and subtropical areas in various parts of the country-having temperature is as high as 40 to 45 degrees Celsius during the summer, this variety can be grown.

New Variety of apples
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Success story of innovative Himachal farmer

In 1998, Hariman Sharma had purchased some apples for consumption from Ghumarwin village, Bilaspur, and had discarded the seeds in his backyard. In 1999, he observed an apple seedling in his backyard, developed from the seeds disposed of by him in the previous year.

Being an innovative farmer with a keen interest in horticulture, he could sense that an apple plant growing at a warm place like Paniyala, situated 1,800 feet from sea level, was extraordinary. After a year, the plant started blooming, and he observed fruits in 2001. He preserved the plant as "mother plant" and started experimenting by grafting the scion (young shoot) and by 2005 created a mini orchard of apple trees which continue to bear fruits till today.

Hariman Sharma, progressive farmer of Himachal Pradesh showing his innovative variety of apples
Hariman Sharma, progressive farmer of Himachal Pradesh showing his innovative variety of applessocial media

NIF explores innovative variety

The innovative variety was explored by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) – India, an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST). NIF verified the claims of the innovator and evaluated the distinctiveness and potentiality of the variety by facilitating molecular and diversity analysis studies and fruit quality testing.

NIF also provided financial and technical support for establishing and expanding the nursery, besides aiding the registration of the variety.

During further analysis and research, it was observed that HRMN-99 plants having 3-8 years of age produced 5 to 75 kg fruits per plant per year in four districts of lower Himachal Pradesh, Sirsa (Haryana) and Manipur. It is bigger in size as compared to other varieties, with very soft, sweet, and juicy pulp and striped red over yellow skin colour during maturity.

Cultivation initiated in Southern states also

As per the DST, commercial cultivation of this apple variety has been initiated in Manipur, Jammu, low lying areas of Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Telangana, and fruit setting has been expanded to 23 states and Union Territories (UTs) so far.

Commercial cultivation of this variety was initiated at twenty-six farmers' fields at eight different locations of Bishnupur, Senapati, Kakching districts of Manipur in the year 2015 by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) along with other institutions wherein farmers were provided the requisite training on best practices for successful apple cultivation.

Trials say fruit setting reported from 23 states, UTs

During 2014-2019, the multi-location trials of the variety in low chilling areas across the country were conducted by NIF by transplanting over 20,000 saplings at over 2,000 farmers' fields and 25 organizations in 30 states, including Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Fruit setting has been reported from 23 states, and UT's so far. These are Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli, Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Pondicherry, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.