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THE CULTIVARS AND VARIETIES OF LITCHI

 

The summer season each year brings wafting memories of a juicy and luscious fruit called litchi. The origins of Litchi lie in southern China where as a crop it has been cultivated uninterruptedly for close to 2500 years. Its geographical propagation has been rather slow, which is due to the short life-span of its seed and the peculiar soil and climatic requirements associated with the plant.A classical instance of this is India which is the second largest producer just behind China, but litchi farming is chronologically speaking, very recent having been introduced only sometime in the middle of the 1700's. Together China and India between themselves produce more than 90% of the world's Litchi, leaving the rest of the world far behind. In the backdrop of all this it is interesting to know the various cultivars and varieties which dot the world of Litchi farming. Most or all of them have their genesis probably in China but have been suitably bred and modified to thrive in countries of their adoption.

The terms 'cultivar' and 'variety' have often been used interchangeably but this convention often seems to ignore the obvious differences which exist between the two. A 'cultivar' is bred with the help of vegetative propagation, which could include cutting, grafting,budding and tissue culture and is a product of human effort and ingenuity. A 'variety' on the other hand is a natural phenomenon and is bred through seedlings. A 'variety' will always produce clones of the parent plant, but in a cultivar,there may be slight variation in a progeny compared to the parent particularly in the case of hybrids. The Litchi cultivars in India number about 40 out of which around 12 or 13 are commercially cultivated.The same cultivar or variety may be known by different names in various parts of the country. In China there are about 200 known cultivars although only 20 or so are in commercial farming, which means the genetic repository is much more widespread compared to India but then this is to be expected as the history of cultivation extends to two and a half millenia. A notable discrepancy is the difficulty in understanding the Chinese script and language for outsiders and any attempt to transliterate Chinese names into Roman script results in tongue-twisting pronunciations with horrendous consequences. Most of the cultivars from both India and China can be classified as early, mid or late,depending upon when the fruits ripen or mature. There are other physical characteristics which are commonly used to distinguish or earmark cultivars. They are

  • shape and size of the fruit, 
  • the seed   
  • the composition of pulpy edible flesh or the aril
  • leaf shape
  • plant size and canopy
  • fruit color
  • skin texture
  • flushing pattern and color
    
    
    Varieties of India:
 

State

Cultivars

Bihar

Shahi, China, Deshi, Purbi, Rose Scented, Kasba, Mandraji, Late Bedana, Early Bedana, Trikolia, Swarna Roopa

Uttar Pradesh

Early Large Red, Early Bedana, Late Large Red, Late Bedana, Muzaffarpur( Shahi), Rose Scented, Culcuttia, Extra Early Green, Gulabi, Pickling, Khatti, Dehradun, Piazi

West Bengal

Bombai, Ellaichi, Early Ellaichi, Late China, Deshi, Purbi, Kasba, Muzaffarpur

Punjab & Haryana

Saharanpur, Dehradun, Muzaffarpur, Late Seedless, Early Seedless, Rose Scented,

Early Large Red, Late Large Red, Culcuttia, Khatti, Gulabi

        
   
    Varieties of China:

Ripening Period

 

Early

Sanyuehong, Baitangying

Mid

Dazao, Heiye, Baila, Feizixiao and Shuidongheiye

Late

Xiangli, Guiwei, Noumici, Huaizhi, Xuehuaizi, Lanzhu, Yuanhong, Xiafanzhi and Nanmuye

 

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Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.