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Innovator farmer Hariman Sharma’s apple variety takes root in 30 States

Hariman Sharma of Himachal Pradesh has developed a self-pollinating apple variety that does not need the required long chilling hours for flowering and fruit setting

An innovative farmer in Himachal Pradesh has developed a self-pollinating apple variety that does not need the required long chilling hours for flowering and fruit setting.

This variety has now spread to plain, tropical and subtropical areas in India, where the summer temperature can range between 40 and 45 degree Celsius.

The cultivation of this variety on a commercial scale has started in Jammu, Manipur, low lying areas of Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.

The Man Behind The Innovation

The inventive farmer who did this is Hariman Sharma, who hails from Paniala village of Bilaspur district in Himachal Pradesh.

His innovative apple variety – HRMN 99 – has inspired farmers in thousands in his region and also horticulturists of Bilaspur and other lower hill districts in the State, which earlier could never dream of growing apples.

Having been orphaned at a young age, Hariman was adopted and raised by his uncle. He opted for farming after studying till Class X. His innate interest in horticulture triggered him to grow different fruits like apple, mango, pomegranate, kiwi, plum, apricot, peach, and even coffee.

An interesting feature of his farming practice is that he can grow apples along with mango in the same field.

How did it begin?

It was in 1998, that Hariman bought some apples for eating from Ghumarwin village, Bilaspur, and discarded the seeds in his backyard. Next year, he observed an apple seedling in his backyard, developed from those discarded seeds.

An observant farmer, with keen interest in horticulture, he immediately sensed that an apple plant growing at a warm place like Paniyala, situated 1,800 feet above sea level, was extraordinary.

Within a year the plant bloomed and he observed the fruits in 2001. Preserving that plant as a “mother plant”, he started experimenting by grafting the young shoot and by 2005 he created a mini orchard of apple trees which bear fruits even today.

Registration of the variety

For six years that is from 2007 to 2012, Hariman tried convincing others to grow apple in low chilling conditions, but not many evinced interest. Finally, the innovative variety was scouted by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF)-India. The autonomous body of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, verified the innovator claims and evaluated it.

The NIF also provided financial and technical support for establishing and expanding the nursery, while helping in registration of the variety under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Right Act, 2001.

From 2014 to 2019, multi-location trials of the variety in low chilling areas across the country were conducted by NIF, across 30 States and Union Territories, including the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Fruit setting has been reported from 23 States, and UTs so far. These include Bihar, Jharkhand, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Dadra, and Nagar Haveli, Karnataka, Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Pondicherry, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi.

Interestingly, the fruit variety is bigger in size as compared to other varieties, with very soft, sweet, and juicy pulp and striped red over yellow skin colour during maturity.

Cultivation on commercial scale

Commercial cultivation of this variety was initiated at 26 fields at eight different locations of Bishnupur, Senapati, Kakching districts of Manipur in the year 2015 by NIF. A farmer from Manipur has received recognition at various platforms for his outstanding work on adoption of HRMN-99 apple cultivation. Now 200 more farmers have commercially adopted the variety, and more than 20,000 plants of HRMN 99 apple variety are being grown in the State.

While commercial adoption of this variety has also begun in Jammu, low-lying areas of Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka Chhattisgarh, and Telangana, 15,000 graftings in the first phase, have been transplanted in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam Manipur, and Meghalaya during January 2021.

In 2017, Hariman Sharma was conferred the National Award in 2017 during the 9th National Biennial Grassroots Innovation and Outstanding Traditional Knowledge awards by then President of India Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan.