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15 October, 2014
CHERRY EMERGING AS A NEW CHOICE OF
When British brought temperate fruits into the hilly regions, they did not have any particular preference. They planted popular varieties of almost all the fruits which were growing in England. Initially, the fruit trees were planted in home gardens. Commercial orcharding started some decades later. As years passed, apple emerged as the foremost commercial fruit because of its long shelf life. This advantage was lacking in other fruits. So their cultivation remained restricted.
However, the situation is changed now due to the extensive network of all weather roads making it possible to carry orchard produce to markets without any delay. So growers have now started venturing into other fruits too.
A ripe bunch of white fruited cherry
Cherry is one such fruit. Though existent in HP since a century, cherry could never be commercially important. However, now it is emerging as a new high profit fruit and growers have started going in for it.
Cherry (Prunus avium) requires a colder climate than apple. This fruit will grow successfully only at those places which receive 1000 – 1500 chilling hours during winter. Adequate rains should be there but not in May when fruits ripen. Cherry fruits cannot withstand rains at the time of ripening start cracking. The soil for cherry should be very well drained as its roots are highly sensitive to water logging.
Earlier cherry varieties were small fruited and not ideal. The recent varieties like Vance, Scala, and Sunburst etc. have larger fruits and therefore sell at premium. Other recommended varieties are Black Tartarian, Bing, Napoleon, Sam, Sue, Stella, Van, Lambert and Republican. New cherry plants are raised on seedlings as well as on a clonal rootstock, Colt.
Fruits ready for harvesting
Two major problems exist in growing this remunerative fruit crop. First is the damage by birds. At some places the birds start attacking cherry trees even at flowering stage. The damage becomes quite severe at the time of fruiting when all kinds of birds throng cherry orchards. The only effective control is manual scaring. The birds, however, soon get used to watchmen and stop fearing them. It is therefore a quite laborious operation to chase these birds out. This writer saw cherry growers in China protecting there crop by using a kind of net put at one side of the orchard like a volleyball net. The orientation of this net is kept in accordance of the direction of the entry of the birds. The birds, even upto the size of a large parrot, get trapped in this net and die of fatigue and starvation.
Another common pest of cherry is the Himalayan Palm Civet called SAKRALOO in local language. This is a small nocturnal animal operating during night only. The only effective way to control SAKRALOO is putting some barrier on the tree trunk.
The second is harvesting. The small fruits of cherry have to be picked by hand. One worker cannot pick more than10 kg cherries in a day. The fruits are then packed in special 5 kg boxes. As cherries are highly perishable, so these must reach the consumer within 72 hours.
A grower reveals ......
Dr. Jayant Kumar, a horticultural scientist, has over 100 cherry trees in his personal orchard above Panarsa on the Mandi - Kullu Highway. He says that in spite of all odds, he is able to harvest 5.5 to 6 tons of cherries from his trees. Dr. Jayant is of strong view that cherry cultivation is profitable in spite of the high cost crop protection, picking and marketing. He, however, says that the market price should not drop below 60 rupees a kg. This has not happened for the past several years.
Cherry orchard in China being protected from birds with net.