You wouldn’t get the gravity of the situation till you see the apples falling off trees with your own eyes. In Karnataka. Yes, apples are now being grown in tropical Karnataka, and in volumes.
Two years ago, horticultural scientist C Parmar and Adike Patrike (Areca Magazine, in English) magazine editor Sree Padre were brainstorming, what it then seemed, an outlandish idea.
Parmar, who was here on a private visit, had seen apples being grown in the Java island of Indonesia, and wondered whether the same could be done in Karnataka. The two of them decided to give the idea a shot. Parmar sent a few apple sapplings from Kullu Valley in his native Himachal Pradesh, and the idea was sown.
Now, it has begun bearing fruits. The orchard in Sringeri, about 100km from Mangalore, is now flourishing with apples.
Parmar maintains that he got his inspiration from Southeast Asia. He told this correspondent, “At a place called Batu on the Java iIland of Indonesia, the growers get two crops in a year and their average yield is 65 tonnes per hectare compared to 6–7 tonnes per hectare being obtained by apple growers in Himachal Pradesh.
The other wonder is that Indonesian apple growers regulate the flowering in such a manner that they keep on getting fruits at any time of the year (that essentially suits their market conditions). If one goes there, one can see trees in a leafless state (apple trees are deciduous by nature), but in full bloom. It’s a sight that one can’t believe unless one sees it first person.”
Parmar noticed the incessant growth of apple trees, which normally stop growing and turn leafless after the onset of winter. As there is no winter in tropical Indonesia, growth never ceases there and there is no dormancy either. Farmers remove the leaves by hand and induce the trees to flower. It is done twice and annually, and thus they get two crops in a year.
Said Padre, “After seeing the process at Batu, Parmar wondered whether this could be replicated in Karnataka and other parts of India which have a tropical climate and where the temperature does not fall below 10 degrees C. When farmers of Karnataka came to know about this kind of apple cultivation through an article (by Parmar himself) in our magazine, they approached Parmar who sent 300 saplings from Bajaura in Kullu in January 2011.
These were planted at 18 different locations in the state. The plants progressed well, grew incessantly, and did not shed leaves during December-January when apple trees inevitably become leafless. This was a positive indication. The word spread and many more people evinced interest. So 600 more saplings were by Parmar in January 2012.”
The entire effort was voluntarily coordinated by Krishna Shetty, an ex-Banker from Mangalore.