Sunday, August 16, 1998
feature was published on August 9
A gardener is most disappointed when the fruit plants that he had planted, grow for a few months or even a year or two but die suddenly without any apparent cause. It is all the more frustrating when, by any chance, if such plants do survive after years of costly input and loving care, they bear little poor quality fruit. That is some thing the gardener never bargained for.
Propagating ornamental indoor or shade-loving plants is easy. But when it comes to multiplying fruit plants you have to consult an expert. An excellent performing tree, (both quality and quantity-wise) is a must for use as a mother plant.
You should also be aware of the type of rootstock (the lower portion on which grafting is done) to be used for different fruits. There is an easy way out. Why not visit a reliable source? The research station of agricultural universities and nurseries of state horticulture departments, spread all over the state and the government registered private nurseries are the best bet.
Plants are multiplied from the mother plants of known parentage. You can be sure of what you will get when once your plant starts bearing fruit after a few years.
The same question remains that why do plants disappoint even after a year or two and die unannounced. Was it a big, nearly four-foot-high mango tree that you had bought from a nearby private nursery? You were lured that the "big plant" would start bearing very fast. The plant was easy to carry as it hardly had any earthball. The soil of the earthball looked blackish and rich while the leaves and stem seemed healthy and growing. One more sign, the graft union was knotty. You sure had been trapped in buying the Malihabadi or Saharanpuri mango, the spurious plant that invades in thousands Punjab, Haryana, and Chandigarh every year.
Such plants are in fact raised in clay soil medium and shifted in the nursery itself at least once. At the time of transporting for the purpose of carrying more number of plants in a truck, a minimum possible earthball (gachi) is made. In this process the small feeder roots, as well as those responsible for anchorage, are severely damaged.
Such plants survive until they get nutrition from the earthball attached to it. As the above ground portion flourishes the damaged root system is not sufficient to sustain the plants food requirement. As a result, the plant starts drying.
Another sure sign, indicating a spurious plant, is to examine it after a period of six months or a year by extracting the dead plant. You will still have the original earthball (gachi) intact because it fails to merge with our local soil. The skin will leave the roots even with a little pull. The cause is rotting due to retention capacity of excess moisture.
Grafting of such plants is done by an obsolete method that is inarching. The graft union is very weak and high above the ground. Breaking of such plants at the graft union due to the wind is not uncommon.
Make sure you buy a locally produced, medium-sized, disease and insect free plant of known pedigree from a reliable source. It is even worth-while visiting a distant place to bring a single plant rather than "buying" disappointment. Skip a year if you have to, but plant only the best.
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