Dr. S.K. Mukherjee
Hon. Shri Desai, Dr. Swaminathan, Ladies and Gentlemen,

As Chairman of the Working Group on Mango and Mango Culture, recognised by the International Society for Horticultural Science, I have great pleasure in welcoming you to this Symposium. It was decided at the Council Meeting of the ISHS during the International Horticultural Congress at Maryland in 1966 that a Symposium on Mango may be organised in India by the Division of Horticulture at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute before the next Congress in 1970. On approaching the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, ready assistance was provided and the Government of India agreed to our proposal. The Working Group has 20 members from tropical regions of the world, some of whom present to-day, have been introduced to you. With my association in mango research for over 30 years, I feel it highly satisfying that the ICAR in collaboration with the ISHS could organise this Symposium on a fruit which is highly nutritious, tasteful and characteristic of tropical regions of the world, and especially to South East Asia. I hope this first attempt at international collaboration on mango will bear fruits in bigger ventures in future years and the group will grow. In the light of our recent experience in India, the benefit that can accrue from such international collaboration in wheat, rice and other cereals, this gathering is of great significance to the improvement of the most important Indian fruit.

The mango, belonging to Mangifera indica L., is one of the oldest fruits cultivated by man for his use. The wild relatives of this fruit are widely distributed from India to the Philippines and from Burma, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia to Indonesia, Borneo and New Guinea. A number of these wild species bear edible fruits, some of which are also cultivated outside India. Some of these species bear fruits much bigger than the cultivated mango. Although most of the 41 species belonging to the genus Mangifera occur outside India, the cultivated species M. indica with several outstanding varieties had maximum variation and development in India.

The cultivated mango varieties are the result of constant selection by man from the original wild plants for over 4000 years. The wild progenitors are still available in India in two species, M. indica and M. sylvatica, which have very small fruits, about 5–6 cm in length, with a big stone and very thin acidic flesh, and long fibres. These have very tall trees of 150–200 ft height and 20–25 ft in diameter in the forests bordering India and Burma. There are several wild forms also in the hills of Orissa which have fruit shapes of different forms almost similar to the present day cultivated varieties. These are the result of selections from variations obtained through seeds. After we had secured the knowledge of vegetative propagation through inarching, probably in the sixteenth century when contacts with western countries developed, we had been able to produce and perpetuate a large number of cultivars, which are far superior to the wild types. These do not have the fibre, are sweeter in taste, with bigger flesh and with little adverse effect of the resinous chemicals near the skin, which in some wild species cause blisters. We know through our work in India how these varieties have evolved. It will be of great interest to this meeting, where for the first time research workers on an important tropical fruit, mango, from various countries are assembling to exchange knowledge on this fruit in other countries. We shall be greatly interested to hear from workers in other countries about the cultivated varieties in their countries, their evolution and the related wild species, which will be useful in further improvement of this crop. Among several hundred varieties of mango in India, only 4 or 5 are polyembryonic i. e. producing 4–5 plants from each seed, but these are of inferior quality. Most of the improved varieties are monoembryonic, which shows considerable variation in plants raised from seeds. But the polyembryonic varieties do not show variation when raised from seeds. There are reports of good cultivated varieties of polyembryonic nature, being cultivvated in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, etc. Reports on these will also be of great interest to us, as these can be commercially cultivated through seeds, without vegetative multiplication.

In comparison to the temperate fruits like apple, pear, etc. and the tropical and subtropical fruits like oranges, banana and pineapple, which are of international commercial value, mango has received very little attention in research and trade. California, Florida, Israel, Italy, Spain and some other countries give considerable attention to oranges for its international trade value. Hawaii and Malaya have keen interest in pineapple. West Indies, Ecuador and many Latin American countries depend on banana for their economy. Although we do not have accurate statistics of mango area in the world, its production and value in trade, a rough estimate was made by the speaker for South East Asia, in a paper on Fruit Industry in S.E.Asia, presented at the last International Horticultural Congress in 1966. The mango occupies about 2. 2 million acres in India out of a total area of 3.16 million acres in the world. This area in India constitutes about 70% of the total fruit area in India. In terms of production per annum it will mean about 7.5 million tons of the value of approx. Rs. 750 crores (=US$1.125 million)(Re. 1/- per kg). As India occupies a major area under improved cultivated varieties of mango in the world, it is necessary for us to give more attention to its improvement and provide more funds and staff for the same. The number of workers and the research centres are limited. As this fruit requires popularisation in world, as is being done for Avocado, more intensive work of commercial value should be initiated. All countries of the tropical region in S.E. Asia, Africa and America have scope for its development.

Let us now see what have we done in India and what are the problems?

  1. Varietal situation

    In India nearly 1000 improved cultivars are reported in the various monographs on mango by Burns and Prayag (1924), Mukherjee (1948), Naik and Gangolly (1950), Singh and Singh (1956) and in the Monograph on mango published by ICAR. These varieties are mostly of choice type with little commercial value except about a dozen cultivars, which bear more regularly like Dashehari, Alphonso, Himsagar, etc. The good qualities and horticultural characters of the varieties have listed.

  2. Propagation techniques

    The method used in India for more than 200 years or so has been inarching which allows production of a few plants from a selected mother plant and the expenses are high. We have developed techniques for detached shoot grafting, budding, and multiplication through cuttings and stooling. We can now multiply these plants in any way we like. The use of veneer grafting in topworking or changing inferior plants to desired varieties is an achievement, as in India we can change at least 100,000 acres of suitable seedling trees into improved varieties which can give an added production of 200,000 tons of fruits of desired varieties. This experience may be of use also to other countries.

  3. Bearing behaviour

    We have been working on this problem for a long time and still requires elucidation. But we now know that one way of solving this is a genetical approach by breeding superior regular bearing varieties through hybridisation. We shall show your several hybrids during visit to our fields at IARI.

  4. Pests and diseases

    We have tackled various pests and diseases. But the one which is attracting our attention in Mango Malformation, associated with Fusarium moniforme and mite (Aceria mangiferae). It is the time that other countries take note of this disease and have strict quarantine measures.

  5. Storage and transport requirements

    We have done some work. But much more infomation is required for bulk handling of the fruits for transport by train and ship for export.

    From a brief report presented to you, it is seen that considerable effort has to be made in research and development to bring mango industry at par with other important fruit industries as in the case of orange, pineapple or banana, to make it an international ventre. In contrast to other fruits, mango is one where considerable percentage of the fruit is thrown away as skin and stone. The edible part is much less in comparison to apple, strawberry or banana per kilogram of fruit purchased by a housewife. Hence major attention has to be given to improve the fruit forms by increasing the flesh percentage and reducing the stone through breeding. There has been initial success in producing a fruit without embryo through chemicals, which may be called a seedless fruit. The fruits are of smaller size and the chemical is expensive. Hence much more work is required to be done to bring it to commercial scale.

    The mango is a big tree which causes serious difficulty in its culture and control of pests and diseases through plant protection measures. Finding out a suitable dwarfing rootstock will be animportant achievement. We are trying to select them. Such a discovery can revolutinise the mango industry as in the case of apples through the famous work on dwarting rootstock, as the East Malling Research Station in England.

    In our country, the most serious problem has stated with mango malformation disease. Although we have found some protective measures, the ultimate solution is through introducing resistance by breeding or rootstock. Herein is the necessity of a collection of all the wild germ plasm which is lacking. International collaboration in exploration and collection will be the initial step in this direction.

    Information on storage and transport requirements from the garden to the retail end and tinding out proper maturity standards for harvest is essential for transport to long distances and international trade.

    It is a great pleasure to us in India to be able to hold the first International Symposium on Mango under the auspices of the International Society for Horticultural Science and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research. The scientists gathered here from various countries of the world and India will help us in taking a stock on researches done on various aspects and in formulating programmes for future development. I hope this Working Group will become more active in future for the improvement of this important tropical fruit.

Mukherjee, Dr. S.K. (1972). INTRODUCTORY ADDRESS. Acta Hortic. 24, 9-18
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1972.24.0

Acta Horticulturae