Fresh as a Daisy

The winter in Punjab brings the sweetest of kinnows — apart from oranges — but autumn always begins on a sour note. Now, the sweet season for citrus fruits is set to get longer, starting two months before the arrival of the kinnow, the state's largest horticulture crop cultivated over more than 41,000 hectares.

The daisy tangerine, being promoted as an alternative to the kinnow, will be at its sweetest in November, when the kinnow too arrives but with a very sour taste. The daisy also has a higher nutritional value than the kinnow. Its harvesting season comes almost two months prior to that of the kinnow. Apart from delighting the consumer, the daisy will also provide farmers an alternative for diversification.

Punjab's latest addition to the citrus family has been cleared by the horticulture department, following more than five years of extensive research by scientists of Punjab Agriculture University. Says its director for research, Dr S S Gosal, "Although kinnow is Punjab's largest horticulture crop as of now, it has a few problems. The PAU wants to break the kinnow monoculture by expanding the citrus window. After testing all aspects — weather suitability, fruit yield, total sugar solubility, weight, acidity — the PAU plans to introduce this extremely attractive, deep orange, sweet and juicy fruit among Punjab farmers."

He adds, "The daisy has fewer seeds, lower acid levels and higher juice content than the kinnow. Its biggest advantage will be its harvesting season. Kinnows are sour in November but farmers pick them early though their actual harvesting season is early January. The daisy ripens in early November, which will benefit the processing industry in (what is now) the off-season."

Dr Jagtar Dhiman, PAU's additional director (research), natural resources, cites another advantage of the daisy against the kinnow. "For the past few years, the disease phyto-pthora foot rot has been damaging kinnow orchards. Research has found that the daisy will be resistant to this and other viruses," Dr Dhiman says.

"Farmers over-irrigate their orchards, and the stagnating water is the main reason behind this disease, which can even wipe out the entire kinnow cultivation of Punjab," Dr Gosal adds. "With the arrival of the daisy, the risk will be reduced."

The daisy tangerine, a product of cross-breeding between mandarin varieties, was officially named by Dowling Young of Young's Nursery in Thermal, California. Its tryst with Punjab began five years ago when saplings were brought from California to PAU, leading to the research that found it as suitable as it is attractive.

"We are in the process of readying the root stalks. TERI (The Energy and Resource Institute, New Delhi) will help us in mass production and multiplication of saplings; the material will be provided by PAU. Then they will be distributed to farmers in Punjab at very nominal rates," says Dr Pushpinder Singh Aulakh, head of PAU's fruit sciences department.

"The daisy is not a competitor against the kinnow but is a profitable addition that will reduce losses suffered by kinnow," says L S Brar, the state horticulture director.

What consumers can also look up to is a fall in prices of mausami and kinnow. "It is the right time to introduce the daisy," says Dr M S Gill, PAU's director for extension education.

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