ISLAMABAD (March 18 2008): With four agro-ecological zones, Balochistan is endowed with a unique environment for the production of a great variety of quality fruits. The province is known as the fruit-basket of the country producing 90 percent of grapes, cherry and almonds, 60 percent of peach, pomegranate, apricot, 34 percent of apple and 70 percent of date, PTV reported.
The province, with diverse climates ranging from temperate to sub-tropical and tropical, produces various fruit crops. While apple, apricot, cherry and peach are high delta fruits, grape, olive, pistachio and pomegranate belong to the low delta of the province. While mango is a tropical fruit, date palm is a sub-tropical one.
The province produces varieties of date. According to one estimate, Mekran produces about 0.5 million tons of dates annually. Some of the famous date varieties grown in Turbat and Panjgur include Begum Jangi, Kaharaba, Mozawati, Berni, Helini and Sabzo.
The province produced over 6,625 tons of mango during fiscal year 2003-04 contributing 0.6 per cent to the total national production. Fruit crops are grown over an area of 1,49,726 hectares in the province with a yield of about 0.9 million tons annually.
Fruit production in highland Balochistan, which contains south-western region, depends on the availability of groundwater. The region is famous for production of commercial varieties of grape such as Kishmishi and Sundarkhani. Raza Tareen, the horticulturist in Agriculture Research Institute (ARI) in Quetta, said: `Zoning is essential for growing different fruit crops in Balochistan, as each agro-ecological zone presents specific agro-climatic condition for production of different kinds of fruit`.
Grape, the low delta crop, is grown in bulk in Quetta, Pishin, Kalat, Zhob, Loralai and Mastung districts. It may be grown in all types of climates and soils, but the experts believe that the province should be divided into zones for quality fruit production. For instance, for high delta fruits of apricots and plums, an `apricot zone` or `plum zone` should be set up in upland Balochistan.
Another expert Muhammad Naseem in ARI said Balochistan`s tremendous yield potential of high quality fruits can efficiently be tapped by establishing `crop specific zone` and `fruit processing units` in the province.
The fruit farmers needed to be properly educated about the techniques of growing fruit crops, and pay attention toward zoning for growth of different fruit crops. Efficient crop management could increase the profit of local farmers by reducing the production cost.
The experts in ARI are working on the production of cultivars of different fruits in Balochistan. As a result of agriculture research, cultivars of different fruits have been introduced. For instance, local cultivars of grapes, which have been introduced so far, include Kishmishi, Sundarkhani, Haita, Hussani, Askari, Khal Chini and Khalili.
The cultivars of apple include the early-season cultivars, mid-season cultivars and late-season cultivars. So far 52 varieties of apples, 22 of grapes, 14 of peaches, 15 of cherry, 30 of plums, 32 of apricots, 11 of olive, five of almond and four varieties each of pistachios and pomegranates have been introduced. Muhammad Shakeel, deputy director planning in the Directorate General of Agriculture Research in Quetta, said that research studies had also been conducted on tropical fruit production in the province.
New techniques for production of tropical fruits, and cost-effective practices and packages for improvement in production, and new high-yielding and pest-resistant varieties of tropical fruits had also been introduced.
In Lasbella district, a project for improving production of tropical fruits is under way under PSDP schemes. The ARI is also working on insect pest control in Balochistan and it had established the codling moth control on apple and reduced number of sprays from eight to two times.