Is the Climate of Sindh Suitable for Raising Citrus Fruits?   

 

M.H. Panhwar

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The wiping out the 150,000 acres of banana by BBTV (Banana Bunchy Top Virus) and HR (Heart Rot) in 1989-91 and removal of roses from 100,000 acre in Sindh due to collapse of export market in 1989, had created an urgent need for introduction of replacement crops. The farmer wants to know, what are the new crops, their economics, agronomical requirements, diseases, pests, markets and pay off periods? Since no one in the country expected the urgency, replacement crops were neither studied nor planned. The answer therefore was as confusing as the problem of replacement.

We had been doing these studies since 1981. The prices of mango had started coming down, since that year and in the terms of real value, the mango prices of 1990 were about 40% of 1981 prices and in 1998 about 20%. Banana was doing better than mango, as prices in 1990 were about 50% of 1979 prices recovery may not come, due to glut created by vast area under Sindhri mango plantations in Sindh. We studied citrus and many other alternative crops in details and raised them on a small scale to understand their agronomy and economics. Sindh had developed considerable citrus industry with the opening of Sukkur Barrage in 1932, but it had suddenly collapsed in late fifties. The causes of this failure had never been studied and a hasty conclusion was drawn that Sindh’s climate is not suitable for citrus. It was period of “One Unit” during which there was strong prejudice against Sindh’s being highly competitive with the Punjab and our  horticulturist collaborated towards doom of this industry. Thus citrus was out once for all. We have studied these causes and found that they had nothing to do with the weather of Sindh. It was triteza virus and zinc deficiency. Besides there was lack of knowledge about plant protection and non availability of suitable chemicals and spray equipments.

Agro climatology is no longer given due importance as the British had given to it, before Independence, upto 1947. Mukhtiarkars of every Taluka, was reporting telegraphically the daily data about maximum and minimum temperatures and rainfall to the Meteorological Department as well as to the Director Agriculture in Sindh. The latter compiled them month-wise and published in the Sindh Government Gazette once a year along with average since 1904. The last such data for 41 years (1904-1945) were published in 1946. Then we got independent of this drudgery, the Indian Meteorological Department also published annual climatic data and also separate rain fall volumes. These go back to year 1891 and 1897 and cover some 11 station of Sindh. Since 1904, data was available for all 65 Talukas of Sindh. the daily maximum and minimum temperatures and rainfall for Karachi, Hyderabad, Pad-Idan, Rohri and Jacobabad along with major Indian cities, were published by all English and Sindhi news papers. These formed a basis of understanding agro-climatology.

Another source of data is offices of Executive Engineers Department of Irrigation. In the recent years WAPDA collect and compiles data. Pakistan Meteorological Department has 22,000 employees. Data has been collected but has not compiled to give annual, monthly and daily averages for past years. All Agricultural Research Farms in Sindh also collected daily climatic data, but they are not compelled. We started collecting data from various agencies and have prepared monthly summaries for some 18 stations. In addition to these we have also worked out Heat Indices and Chill Units for all these 18 places. The results are astonishing, the accumulated Chill Units [C.U]  (hours below 7.2°C) for Sindh are the highest in Larkana (550 C.U). the coldest belt of Sindh is Larkana, northern Dadu and western parts of Naushero and Khairpur districts. After Ghorabari and Karachi, the Hyderabad town is the least cold (150 Chill Units) in winter. Tando Jam accumulates twice as much chill as Hyderabad, only 11 miles from the former.

In terms of heat accumulated or Heat Index (temperatures over 13.0°C in summer months), Jacobabad, is warmest (4469 Heat Index), and M9irpur Sakro the least warm (3777 Heat Indedx). Karachi and Ghorabari and hotter than Mirpur Sakro.

The above data alone will determine whether citrus or any other fruit or vegetable crops can be raised in Sindh. After thorough examination of climatic requirements of citrus. We have concluded that:

 

Grape fruit.

Grape fruit has been grown in Sindh since the opening of Sukkur Barrage. It is harvested mostly in September, but as grape fruit can be stored on the tree, until March next year, harvest was spread over many months. One effect of storing fruit on the tree was, low yield in the subsequent year. It would be interesting to mention that citrus was successfully raised at Dokri, Dadu, Tharu Shah, and Pad-Idan, all of which are very warm places having the average maximum  mean for the month of June at 41-6°C. Citrus can easily stand temperature of 50°C (122°F). Highest temperatures for Jacobabad and Pad-Idan are 48.5°C and 48°C respectively. Citrus can stand a few degrees below 0°C. Temperature in Sindh does not fall below 0°C. Grape fruit was also raised at Sakrand and Mirpurkhas comparatively less warm places. While grape fruit was harvested in Dokri, Dadu and Tharu Shah having 4400, HI (Heat Index) in September, in Imperial Valley (California) having 3300 Heat Index, it was harvested late in December-January period, a delay of 3-4 months. In the Central California (Bakersfield to Fresno) harvest took place still later, as these areas have less Heat Indices. The late harvest invariably affected yield of another young crop started for next season on the tree.

 

Oranges.

Naval Oranges need heat but less than grape fruit. It can be grown in Sindh as it needs high heat accumulation, as compared to other oranges.

Limes and Lemon.

Limes need heat and limes are successfully grown in Sindh. The Sindh’s lemon is actually a lime. Limes need high amount of heat but not lemons. This crop gives more return than mango or banana.

 

Mandarins.

Sindh had its own mandarin the Narangi or Nargi from Portuguese “Naranj”. It had a very interesting historical significance for its introduction in Sindh. By 1817 the British had gained paramouncy over the whole of South and East India. The Rajasthan, Kutch, Bahawalpur were also made the British protectorates. Mr. Karam Ali Khan Talpur, being afraid of the British designs, sought the Portuguese assistances from Goa and allowed them to establish a church on the Liari River on about 600 acre area. The Portuguese monks, introduced this citrus mandarin, on their property and from here it spread to Sindh. Narangi also gave Sindhi language this word, for orange colour. This mandarin was easy peeler and its segments automatically separated after peeling. Like original Naranj of Spain (Sour Orange), Narangi of Sindh was not sour. It may have been a mutant.

 

Pummelos.

Pummelos need high heat and cannot stand frosts. Pummelos do better on slightly saline water as well as saline soils. They also can stand water logging. Pummelos fruit has keeping quality of 4 months, during which it improves in flavour. The southern Sindh below Nawabshah is free of frosts and is ideal for this fruit. Pummelo is largest in citrus family reaching a size of 8 to 14 inches diameter. It is easy peeler and its segments can easily be separated. Even juice sacks can be separated from segments. It has great export potential in South East Asia, where its supply is in great demand, all the year around. In Pakistan citron is wrongly considered as pummelo, which has sweet juice and is not acidic like citron.

 

Citrus Industry of Sindh 1935-1960

Thus an early and premature death of citrus industry was caused in Sindh. The lime industry has lived until recently and we have witnessed with our own eye, its final death caused by water logging in Dadu and Naushero districts.

 

Conclusion.

There are a few musts in successful citrus growing.

Citrus gives yield of 20 to 25 tons/acre in California, Florida, South Africa and Australia. In Pakistan the yield is only 3-5 tons.

The yield losses occur due to the following causes:

Causes

Percentage

Weed competition.

25-30%

Improper nitrogen fertilisation (too much or too little).

10-25%

Wind injury.

30-35%

Scales.

10-15%

Melanose.

20-23%

Rust.

            4-5  %

Total losses about

             75%

Further loss due to rejection of fruit from farm to the consumer is 5%.

Having understood these factors, the new citrus farmer of Sindh will be ready to raise following citrus varieties:

If improved agronomical practices are introduced and proper cultivars in each varieties are selected, progressive and educated farmers, who besides farming also keep them-selves technically up to date, can except a yield of at least 15-20 tons/acre. As a farmer, I am aiming at 20-25 tons/acre.

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