Jalna district is the largest producer of sweet oranges in Maharashtra with more than 85 percent of the geographical area under agricultural cultivation. Jalna has many agro-climatic advantages that aid the growth of this traditional variety of sweet orange. Located in the upper Godavari basin, the rich black soil along the river banks of Ambad and Partur and the river water of Godavari, Dudhana, Galhati and Purna are extremely suitable for the cultivation of sweet orange.
Luckily, sweet orange trees do not require much rainfall or water so the dry to moderately warm weather and ununiform rainfall in the region is suitable for their growth. The tehsils of Ghansawangi and Ambad have the largest number of orchards and produce the sweetest variety of this orange.
Planting is normally done during the monsoons. Nucellar, Kagdi and Rajapimpari are the main varieties grown here with Kagdi widely considered to be the oldest. It has a small fruit, thin peel, lesser yield per tree and also prone to many diseases. The famous Jalna sweet orange variety that is grown extensively is Nucellar which is produced by grafting method.
Sweet oranges mature in about 9 – 12 months and harvesting is done when they are fully ripe, attain a proper size, colour and acceptable sugar to acid ratio. Normally, the fruits stay on the trees even after reaching maturity for several weeks and are clipped with secateurs. November – January called as ‘Ambe Bahar’ and March – May called as ‘Mrig Bahar’ are considered to be the harvesting periods. This is followed by washing, drying, sorting, grading and wrapping in tissue paper. Sweet oranges have good shelf life because of its tight skin.
Nucellar is famous for its thick rind which is rich in Potassium and Nitrogen. The pulpy nature of the fruit is also maintained because of this tight rind. The fruit matures faster than other varieties due to its high TSS content.
Farmers say that larger the spread of the tree, higher its yield. The fresh refreshing juice is packed with Vitamin C, Potassium and Folic Acid while the peel contains sugars and edible fibres. Nowadays, high-value food products and value-added products are being developed from the citrus peel.
The sweet orange fruit is processed commercially into juice, concentrates, squashes, nectar, dry mixes, marmalades and other products like pectin, essential oil from the peel, natural colours, candied peel and others. Sweet orange oil is used as a flavouring agent, in the cosmetic industry to make perfumes and creams as well as in pharmaceutical preparations.
This delicious sweet orange received the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2016.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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