July 26, 2021 3:24:11 am
THE PUNJAB Horticulture Department has taken up the onus of helping people live and eat healthy by distributing at least 2.50 lakh fruit seed balls during the ongoing rainy season across the state.
The aim of the drive, officials said, was to ensure that the state had enough fruit-bearing trees in the future and seasonal fruits — the consumption of which is often suggested by doctors in order to build up immunity — was available in abundance and at prices that could be afforded by everyone.
Officials said that at least around 12 types of fruits — Mango, Jamun, Guava, Mulberry, Phalsa, Karonda, Aonla, Lasura, Ber, Bael, Dheyun, and Kathhal — can be grown in the rainy season in the state and the horticulture department has prepared the seed balls of all the fruits.
Sharing more details, officials said seed balls were extremely easy to use and merely required to be planted in the soil in such a way that half of the ball was buried, as the other half stayed overground during the rainy season when the soil is already soft.
Seed Balls, which are also called earth balls, carry the seeds of various plants that are mixed in clay, which is prepared by using humus or compost and are kept in microbial inoculants, with common and locally available ingredients being utilised.
Local soil is used, to make a seed ball soft with a binding material of husk and well seed manure, and then dried seeds of fruits plants are packed into them.
“We organised around 350 awareness camps across the state before launching this pilot project to make people understand the importance of the fruits, especially during the times of this Covid pandemic when people with lower immunity become vulnerable,” said Shailender Kaur, the director department of horticulture, Punjab. She added that all these fruits, of which they were distributing seed balls, had great nutritional value. “If today we grow these around the state in our fields, and open places, then tomorrow there will be no scarcity of seasonal fruits.”
Highlighting the difference between seed balls and seeds, Kaur said that when seeds are planted then there is always a fear about their germination as sometimes birds or animals end up uprooting or destroying them. But with the seed ball technique, the yields are higher and the results better as the seeds are provided a required microbial environment, and the desired germination can be achieved. “We are distributing pamphlets carrying the details about its plantation technique. These pamphlets also teach people how to make their own seed balls in the future,” Kaur said.
She added that the period between mid-July to early August was best suited for the growth of seasonal fruit-bearing plants and trees because of the regular rain.
“We hand out these seed balls to all those who demand it from us as well as to some NGOs which are involved in plantation drives. Environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal, who himself has been growing nurseries of various trees, has been involved in distributing these seed balls for free among the massed,” she saod.
Several school students, too, have shown interest and they have been handed over some seed balls so that they can plant and take ownership of the trees and look after them as they grow.
Prodded about the preparation of a seed ball, Kaur said that a portion of soil is mixed with half a portion of farmyard manure and traces of husk/cocopeat. Then a good mixture is prepared with the help of water and dough is made, which is further rolled into the shape of balls. Once the soil balls are ready, a hole is created in its middle, and seeds of at least two-three fruit trees is inserted and the ball is rerolled again to help bind the seed and mixture properly. The size of a seed ball may be anywhere between 10 mm to 80 mm depending about the size of the seeds. The seed balls are to be dried at least for 24-48 hours in shade before being handed over for plantation.
Vipesh Garg, officer in the horticulture department, said that having at least one fruit a day has been determined by doctors as being very important for developing a strong immunity. He added that his department was also reaching out to schools and educating students about the importance of having fruit-bearing plants and consuming seasonal fruits to keep diseases at bay.
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