Punjab forays into papaya cultivation, with 900 trees

With the help of technology and a Taiwanese variety of seed, Punjab's maiden attempt at commercial cultivation of papaya is bearing fruit. A commercial farm has come up at the border village of Wadala Veeram in the district where 900 papaya saplings planted two months ago are showing promising growth.

The tropical fruit's biggest challenge in the state was the harsh winters, which is not conducive for its survival. "But as part of the new techniques that we have developed, the farmers are trained to cover the plants with polysheets and maintain the moisture content of the soil. Apart from this, some sprays are also helpful," said Dr Baz Singh, Assistant Director, Horticulture, Punjab.

Dr Baz said they brought the Taiwanese variety Red Lady of the crop from Solapur district in Maharashtra to explore its possibilities in Punjab. Several laboratory experiments later, they zeroed in on a progressive farmer, Karamjit Singh, of Wadala Veeram village.

The cultivation of Red Lady is also done on a large-scale at Bijapur area in Karnataka and some areas in Tamil Nadu.

Dr Baz said that with Karamjit Singh's farm dotted with small papaya plants, he has received requests for its cultivation from other parts of the state. He now envisages to plant more than 20,000 more papaya saplings this season.

The farmers, Dr Baz said, want to adopt the cash crop in order to shed the traditional cycle of wheat and rice sowing.

"Earlier, farmers in these border districts were reluctant to go for the crop due to harsh, frosty conditions. Now that some varieties of fruits have withstood the harsh weather conditions, they are willing to take up their cultivation," said Deputy Commissioner, Amritsar, Kahan Singh Pannu, who is also an expert on agricultural economy.

Karamjit Singh said he had first successfully tried his hands at 'Culture variety' of bananas that withstood winter conditions.

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