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Hot spell puts Devgad Alphonso mangoes at risk

PUNE: As the mercury rises, Alphonso growers from the state’s mango-belt Ratnagiri and Devgad are getting increasingly worried. The fluctuating temperatures has led to significant flower dropping from Devgad Alphonso Mango trees over the last few days. Moreover, mature fruits are suffering sun burns.

According to growers, the premature rise in temperature, usually seen in March not February, is likely to reduce Devgad Alphonso Mango production in Maharashtra by at least 20% this season.

Mandar Desai, who owns a 700-acre mango plantation in Ratnagiri, said that increased heat has caused 35% flowers on Devgad Alphonso Mango trees to drop. This, in turn, is likely to affect Alphonso production in April and May. “The sudden rise in temperature over the last couple of days has caused significant flower-drop from trees. These flowers bear the mango fruit. The temperature usually rises after Holi in March. The heat has come over these parts earlier than usual,” said Desai.

Desai added that the high diurnal temperature variation, or difference between day and night temperatures, in the state has also been a cause for concern among growers. “The early morning temperature taken at the farms is around 15 degrees C, while noon temperatures have been above 35 degrees C,” he pointed out.

Devgad-based grower Rajendra Shetty said that the rise and drop in temperature as well as cloudy conditions have led to ‘hopper’ attack on mangoes in the region. “Although, each year, we see a time when the temperature rises considerably, it is not usually in February. The temperature rise this month is likely to affect production by at least 20%,” he stated.

As per Vidyadhar Joshi, director of the Devgad Taluka Mango Growers Co-operative Society Ltd, the current heat has already begun to damage ripe mangoes on trees. “The current temperature at my farm is 38 degrees C. During a normal season in February, the temperature hovers around 35 degrees C,” said Joshi, who records the temperature at his farm with a hygrometer, which measures relative humidity and temperature directly.

Joshi added that the ongoing temperature is likely to affect Alphonso mango production as extreme heat tends to damage the fruits. “As it is, climate change has affected mango production in the state. This year, we saw above-normal flowering in January. However, most flowers dropped by January-end. We still do not know what caused the sudden flower-drop but climate change could be a cause,” he said.

Vivek Bhide, chairman, Konkan Mango Growers Association, said that the ongoing high temperature condition being witnessed in February this year was seen in March last year. “The extreme heat conditions are not only causing flower-drop in mango trees but also reddish spots on the fruit, associated with sunburn. If the current heat trend continues for another week, we predict more premature flower dropping, which may ultimately affect production of mangoes,” he said.

A researcher from Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth explained that several growers in Sindhudurg are also facing problems related to ‘sun-scarred’ mangoes. “This is more so the case with those who have the fruit coming up on trees. The temperature can also cause the mature fruit to drop off trees,” he said.
Devgad Alphonso Mango

Devgad Alphonso Mango

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    About Devgad Alphonso Mango

    The Alphonso mango was born in India, but is technically an exotic fruits. Portuguese were excellent gardeners, and during their rule in India, their ships often used to come in from other countries and get goods along with them. The ships would also get plants and saplings, which they would then experiment through grafting. Alphonso Mango was born through one such grafting with a mango twig from Brazil. What makes a devgad mango? The Devgad Alphonso gained distinctiveness and favorable characteristics like the pleasant fruity smell, no fibre, extremely aromatic and sweet taste, becoming popular among buyers. The distinctiveness comes from geographical conditions of Devgad as the same are not observed in other varieties grown elsewhere. In the early 90’s, growers brought grafts from Ratnagiri to Devgad for experimentation. As Devgad is majorly hard laterite rock below (termed as jambha dagad locally), it was difficult to plant the grafts. Growers uprooted existing trees of other species that had grown in cracks on the laterite rock and planted Alphonso grafts in its place. The planted grafts survived and produced Alphonso mangoes that tasted very different from mangoes of Ratnagiri region. This was attributed to the typical weather conditions and soil characteristics in the geographical region of Devgad. Between 1920 and 1930 Devgad Mango Growers engaged in marketing efforts, by sending their Alphonso mangoes via passenger boats to Mumbai. Mumbaikars recognized the unique taste of Devgad, along with its sweet taste, thick pulp and extremely pleasant fruity flavour, and the fruit became popular. The fruit from Devgad came to be popularly known as Devgad Hapus in Mumbai and fetched premium price due to its growing demand and popularity. It was at this time that Devgad Alphonso started gaining consumer goodwill to become a brand name thereby acquiring commercial importance. It was apparent from the growing demand and popularity of Devgad Alphonso that the distinctiveness of Devgad Alphonso was a result of the typical climatic conditions and soil characteristics of Devgad region which are different than even nearby regions like Ratnagiri.
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