A farmer from Himachal Pradesh has developed a self-pollinating apple variety that does not require long extensive chilling hours for flowering and fruit setting. This has spread to plain, tropical, and subtropical areas across India, where the summer temperature can reach 40- 45 ºC.
Commercial cultivation of this apple variety has begun in Manipur, Jammu, low lying areas of Himachal Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Chhattisgarh. The fruit setting has been expanded to 23 states & UTs so far.
Hariman Sharma, a farmer, hailing from Paniala village of Bilaspur district, Himachal Pradesh, has developed this innovative apple variety. He has become a source of inspiration not only for thousands of farmers in the region but also for horticulturists of Bilaspur and other lower hill districts in the State and those areas which earlier could never dream of growing apples.
The most fascinating aspect of his farming practice is that he can grow both apples and mangoes in the same field. He also believes that farmers can start growing apple orchards in the lower valleys of Himachal Pradesh and elsewhere too.
About the successful experiment
Hariman Sharma had purchased some apples for consumption from Ghumarwin village, Bilaspur, and had discarded the seeds in his backyard in 1998. After a year, in 1999, he observed an apple seedling in his backyard, developed from the seeds disposed of by him. Being an innovative farmer with a keen interest in horticulture, he could sense that an apple plant growing at a warm place like Paniyala, situated 1,800 feet from sea level, was extraordinary. In 2001, he observed that the plant has started blooming. He preserved the plant as a mother plant and started experimenting on it by grafting the scion (young shoot) and by 2005 created a mini orchard of apple trees which continue to bear fruits till today.
Role of NIF
From 2007 to 2012, Hariman went around convincing others that growing apples in low chilling conditions is no longer impossible. However, not much interest was evinced in the research and dissemination of the variety. Eventually, the innovative variety was scouted by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) – India, an autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. NIF verified the claims of the farmer and evaluated the distinctiveness and potentiality of the variety by facilitating molecular & diversity analysis studies and fruit quality testing.
NIF also assisted with the financial and technical support for establishing and expanding the nursery, besides aiding the registration of the variety under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001. During 2014-2019, NIF took Multi-location trials of the variety in low chilling areas around the country transplanting over 20,000 saplings at over 2,000 fields and 25 organizations in 30 states, including Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi.
According to subsequent investigation and study, HRMN-99 trees aged 3 to 8 years produced 5 to 75 kg fruits per plant per year in four areas of lower Himachal Pradesh, Sirsa (Haryana), and Manipur. It is larger in size as compared to other varieties, with a very soft, sweet, and juicy pulp with a striped red over yellow skin.
Earlier, commercial cultivation of this variety was initiated at twenty-six farmers’ fields at eight different locations of Bishnupur, Senapati, Kakching districts of Manipur in the year 2015 by NIF along with other Institutions wherein farmers were provided the requisite training on best practices for successful apple cultivation.
A farmer from Manipur has also been recognized at various platforms for his outstanding work on the adoption of HRMN-99 apple cultivation. Capitalizing upon the ongoing success in Manipur, 200 more farmers have commercially adopted it, and more than 20,000 plants of HRMN 99 apple variety are being grown in the state.
Hariman Sharma has also been conferred a National Award in 2017 during the 9th National Biennial Grassroots Innovation and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge awards by the former President of India Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.