Iron mesh cages enclose India’s first seedless kinnows at the fruit research farm of the Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana. Dr H S Rattanpal, a PAU scientist working on the seedless variety of the citrus fruit since 2006, has successfully grown four saplings that are kept guarded in a cages to avoid ‘stealing, tampering or any mishap with precious research material’.
India has now become the third country, after the US and Pakistan, to develop the seedless kinnow that has just two or three seeds as against 25-30 seeds otherwise. However, commercialisation of this variety across the country will take some more time. Dr M I S Gill, head of the fruit sciences department at PAU, and Dr S S Gosal, director of research, confirmed the development but refused to share details saying, “Information cannot be revealed at this stage.”
A senior scientist from PAU said, “The seeds in kinnow are a major barrier in exporting the fruit to Europe. At present, the export market for citrus fruits is worth $2.13 billion. Pakistan accounts for nearly 2.5 per cent of kinnow export, while India’s share is less than one per cent. Last year, Pakistan started selling low-seed kinnow saplings to farmers, almost 500 a day, and their export is expected to grow when kinnow orchards start giving fruit. Their plants have reached nurseries, ours are in the research farm.”
Till date, the plants at PAU have yielded two harvests. “These had less seeds. Our aim is to develop fruit with zero seeds. The board of management advised scientists to air-cage the plants as they can be stolen or damaged. It will take at least two more years to introduce the plants commercially,” the scientist added.