Madikeri: Mango, known as the `king of fruits,' is very popular in the country. And, for Mittu Chengappa, a progressive farmer, leading industrialist and a well-known politician from here, growing the Alphonso variety of mango has become a passion in the past four years.
He has a mango orchard at Benagalu village in Periyapatna taluk of Mysore district, bordering Kodagu, less than 10 km off the Kushalnagar-Mysore road. The orchard, now in full bloom, is great to wander through.
There are over 5,000 mango plants, which are not yet full grown, on over 50 acres of what was barren land earlier. He has also grown sapota on 10 acres. The mango plants were brought from Jamnagar in Gujarat from a farm belonging to the Ambanis of Reliance fame.
The soil was tested before planting. The right mixture of ammonium sulphate, nitrogen and potash is essential for growth and yield. Last year he harvested 25 tonnes and expects to pick 100 tonnes this year. "Mango cannot thrive in Kodagu because of the monsoon rains and hailstorms," Mr. Chengappa told The Hindu .
Besides, mist and pest attacks can ruin the crop. Marketing too remains a problem, which the Government should take note of, if it is to save mango growers in the State, he said.
Each plant gives a yield of 400 fruits, with each fruit weighing around 250 gm. Productivity will go up as the trees grow, yielding up to 1,000 fruits per tree in a period of 10 years, Mr. Chengappa said. The plants need regular tending and cultivation is labour intensive.
It is estimated that there are 1,595 varieties of mango all over the world. Over the past two decades, a large number of hybrids have been developed.
Mango has been cultivated in India for 4,000 years, says R.P. Srivastava, principal scientist, Central Institute for Sub-Tropical Horticulture, Lucknow, in a book edited by him.