- Researchers have developed a comprehensive mango database listing 40 commercial and hybrid mango varieties to help plant breeders and the public identify a particular variety correctly.
- This index will assist the breeders in decision-making as to which particular variety should be chosen for a breeding programme to impart a specific trait (characteristic).
- Experts feel that though mango is one of the most important fruit crops of India, detailed information is scattered.
Amid concerns over a dip in mango production this year due to climate change and pest woes, a mango database developed by Indian scientists aims to help plant breeders select the most suitable mango variety for different climatic zones and for further crop improvement programmes.
The database enables the general public as well as plant breeders to identify a particular variety of mango, based on standard descriptions.
Mango (Magnifera indica L.) is regarded as the “King of Fruits” with India being the world’s top producer contributing more than 40 percent of the total world production of mangoes.
The main mango producing states in India are Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Bihar, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.
While the commercial varieties of mangoes number around 30, at least 1000 mango types are found in India, making it a difficult choice when it comes to picking one variety over another.
The mango database (MangoDB) hosted by the Kerala Agricultural University (KAU) lists 40 major mango cultivars including commercial and popular varieties as well as hybrids from Alphonso to Vellari. Information on more than 50 attributes such as fruit availability, water requirement and fruit storage life can be easily retrieved.
“India is the centre of origin as well as centre of primary diversity for the king of fruits, mango. Every state holds large number of landraces and varieties and it becomes very difficult to identify a particular variety unless seen by an expert in a particular region,” Deepu Mathew of KAU told Mongabay-India.
The index has been developed with special reference to the southern parts of the country, contributing insights into the regional diversity and to develop future genetic resource conservation strategies.
“There may be some characteristic feature of the variety that is crucial in its identification. In plant breeding, transfer of pest-resistance genes and disease or abiotic stress tolerance genes to superior varieties is very important. In such cases proper identification of the varieties through critical morphological descriptors (identifier) is important,” said Mathew.
Know your mango
This database will help the general public as well as breeders to understand the features and traits (characteristics) of each cultivar in India.
“Further, this will assist the breeders in decision making as to which particular variety should be chosen for a breeding programme to impart a specific trait,” Mathew explained.
The scientist also stressed that “well-understood and scientifically-documented resistance features” for the cultivars would be incorporated in the database for the benefit of plant breeders.
MangoDB holds the identifier for each mango variety based on universally accepted International Board for Plant Genetic Resources (IBPGR) descriptors.
The database has a user-friendly interface and primarily looks at every morphological attribute (size, shape and structure) of the listed mango varieties.
“This includes the tree traits such as canopy type, floral descriptions including the regularity in flowering, every aspect of fruit including shape, biochemical traits, fruiting period, stone traits, and cytological features such as chromosome number,” Mathew said.
Currently, the National Mango Database is the only source available exclusively for the mango, the scientist pointed out.
This database includes the fruit characteristics of only 18 commercial varieties and 12 hybrids, whereas general horticultural database FAO-Hortivar accommodates only one Indian variety (Alphonso).
The new database, therefore, has an edge over the existing databases in being comprehensive as it incorporates all morphological features, said Mathew.
“We will be expanding the scope and include more varieties from the country,” Mathew said.
According to the Mango Growers Association of India, mango production has been “hit sharply” this year despite the fact that good fruiting was observed. The association blamed fluctuating climate and insect infestation for the damage.
“Mango production in Uttar Pradesh has fallen by half, from an estimated 5.5 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes to about 3 million tonnes. This is mainly due to fluctuating weather and insect infestation. Mango loves heat. When it should have been warmer during flowering, it was very cold. So the fruit has not set properly,” S. Inshram Ali, president, Mango Growers Association of India told Mongabay-India.
“We are seeing a lot of insects since last year. These insects go inside the fruit and damage it. So we have used more amount of pesticide this year. Overall, in India, production has been hit due to changes in climate. So, we can expect mango exports to go down from the 40,000 tonnes exported last year,” he said.
Ali was optimistic about the database.
“Any intervention that can help us in enhancing decision making for developing better varieties is welcome but they have to adapt to the climate concerns,” Ali said.
Mathew agreed with the forecast on exports.
“Alphonso is the variety exported with premium price from India. The export is due to its high fruit quality which is least influenced by diseases. The volume of production may be reduced slightly under severe outbreaks,” he added.
Vidhu Sane of CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow, lamented the fact that though mango is one of the most important fruit crops of India, detailed information is scattered.
“Therefore, this database is good initiative although it is restricted only to Kerala. The group has collected data based on large number of descriptors and gives good information about mango varieties popular in southern India. Database is fast and user friendly. It will be good if this database is updated with mango varieties grown in other parts of India,” Sane told Mongabay-India.
She suggested the National Mango Database be linked to the new database for comprehensive information.
“The database can have better utility for breeding purposes if they give information on different simple sequence repeats (SSR) and other markers available in each variety. Both the databases do not give information about volatile composition important for aroma. I think this information would be useful again for breeding purposes,” Sane said.
She further highlighted the need to mention all the active research groups in the database so that scientists can communicate for data on the mango varieties and collaborative research.
“This is unfortunate that we are yet not able to get genome sequence of Indian varieties whereas Australian, American and Israeli groups are pursuing genome sequencing,” Sane added.
[Banner image: Alphonso mango in various stages of ripening. Photo by Ramnath Bhat/Wikimedia Commons].