West Singhbum is an archaeological, geological and historical treasure trove. This region is rich in mineral resources like iron ore and limestone, blessed with the waters of the rivers Roro, Son, Barakar, Koel, Auranga, Bansloi, Kharkai, Gumani and Baitarani, full of dense forests with a wide range of flora and fauna, has warm and humid climatic conditions with adequate annual rainfall and soil conducive for cultivating a variety of fruits like mango, guava, custard apple, ber and others along with soybean, vegetables and pulses.
West Singbhum is best known for its export quality custard apple packed with Vitamin C, iron and dietary fibre. Locally known as shareefa, this cash crop has changed the fortunes of small and marginal farmers in the last decade owing to the timely intervention of ICAR.
The ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region has been actively working with farmers to create a hybrid variety that will increase overall production, maximize production per hectare and help in soil rejuvenation using organic, zero and natural farming techniques. The Hatgamharia Block in West Singhbum in particular is famous for its Arka Sahan variety of custard apple that fetch an excellent price in the local markets as well as in the markets of the neighbouring states of Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These fruits are light green in colour, with a moderately thick skin and remarkably sweet edible pulp.
As this is a hardy crop, scientists are now working on cultivating Annona reticulata in the wastelands and land that has been untouched by cultivation. This fruit crop is known to thrive in degraded land, areas that face severe drought and as a filler plant between mango orchards.
Under the central farming schemes, farmers are now being educated on the importance of intercropping custard apple with guava, black gram, soybean, sesame, ber, pea, vegetables, linseed, safflower and toria to increase production and annual revenue, prevent soil erosion, fix the atmospheric nitrogen and add micronutrients and organic matter to the soil.
This low investment and low-maintenance fruit crop has helped farmers tide over harsh times and the establishment of processing plants and value-added products will go a long way to provide employment as well as steady income for the residents of this district.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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