Origin and distribution
Wild apricot belongs to the family Rosaceae and it is believed that it has originated in North-Eastern China, where its wild forms and allied species has large variability. Wild apricot occurs in Persia since antiquity and dried apricots were an important commodity on Persian trade routes. It is endemic to the Caucasian region and widely distributed in Europe, western and central Asia, Baluchistan, north-west Himalaya and western Tibet up to 4000 m.
The wild apricot is a common fruit of the hills in the northern temperate region of India, comprising Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim, where it is called as Chuli, Chulli, Zardalu, Sarha, Chuari, Gurdalu, Cherkesh, Chuaru, Chola, and Chult. Most of the plants are of seedling origin with varying flesh and kernel characteristics.
A deciduous, large and spreading tree with dark-brown to black bark, around 8-10 m tall. Leaves are broad, cordate, dark green, petiolate, alternate having reticulate pinnate venation, 5-6 cm long and 5-6 cm wide with a serrate margin. Flowers are light pink, sessile, hermaphrodite, medium size, 2-5 flowers per cluster. Flowering starts in the second fortnight of March and continues till the end. Fruiting occurs in the first week of June and remains till August depending upon the altitude. The fruits are velvety when young, round to oblong,10-13 g of weight, less juicy than cultivated types but have more TSS (18-25%).
Nutritional value and uses
The apricot fruit is particularly a very rich source of vitamin A and also contains more carbohydrates, phosphorus and niacin than the majority of other common fruits. The nutritional value per 100 g edible portion is given below.
|Moisture (%)||58.50||58.50 Non-reducing sugar (%)||0.04||Potassium (%)||0.99|
|TSS (%)||20.00||Pectin (%)
|Acidity (%)||1.34||Vitamin C (mg/100 g pulp)||9.95||Magnesium (%)||0.03|
|Total sugars (%)||6.30||Ash (%)||2.54||Protein (%)||0.67|
|Reducing sugar (%)||6.25||Phosphorus (%)||0.08|
Wild apricot fruits are used in many ways. A tree ripens apricot is an excellent dessert fruit. The fruits are more acidic than those of cultivated types and excellent chutney and jam are made. Chopped sweet kernels are added to kheer in the villages. The fruits of wild apricot generally contain high TSS, then cultivated type. They are sun dried to make chalori, which is used a sour agent in many fruit preparation.
The seedlings of wild apricot are used as rootstock for the commercial cultivars of apricot. The wood is hard and durable widely used for making agricultural implements and for fuel also. Oil is extracted from kernels called as chuli-oil widely used for cooking and medicinal purposes especially the massage of the body in case of arthritis. An alcoholic drink is prepared in WH region from fruits.
Wild apricot can be successfully grown at an altitude between 2000- 3000 m. The trees are cold-hardy than peach and almond and can tolerate winter temperature as low as -300C. It is drought hardy and can be grown in a variety of soils, but deep fertile and well drained loamy soil 6.0-6.8 pH is suitable for its growth and development. Wild apricot can be propagated by grafting and budding of selected superior genotypes. Selected superior plants of wild apricot can be grafted onto the rootstock of chuli.
For raising the rootstock, seeds are collected from fully ripe fruits. They are cleaned, dried and kept for stratification for a period of 45-50 days at 40C to break dormancy. Stratified seeds are sown 6-10 cm deep in well-prepared nursery beds at a distance of 10- 20 cm from seed to seed in rows 25-30 cm apart. After sowing, the beds are mulched with 6-10 cm thick grass and light irrigation is applied. The seedlings attain graft-able size after one year from sowing. Tongue grafting, T-budding and clip budding are generally adopted for multiplication.
The seedlings of pencil thickness are grafted onto rootstocks in February while seedlings of less thickness are budded in June. The wild apricot plants should be planted during dormant season in the January-February n the pits of 1x1x1 m size. They are filled with a mixture of soil and 30-40 kg well rotten FYM and NPK fertilizer mixture of about 100 g in each pit. Watering should be done immediately after plantation. For pruning and training, one-year-old whip is headed back at about 60- 70 cm above the ground and 3-5 well-spaced shoots are allowed in all the directions and plants are trained in the open bare system.
A light pruning is used in the apricot plants and Chaubatia/Mashobra paste should be applied on the wounds. For mature tree (7 years or more) a mixture of 40 kg FYM, 500 g N, 250 g P and 200 g K is recommended. It starts fruiting at the age of 5-6 years and continues up to 30-35 years. Fruit setting is very heavy, thus thinning improves the fruit size, which should be done at 30-40 days after full bloom. Fresh fruits can be stored for 1-2 weeks.
A total of 13 accessions of wild apricot viz. IC019368, IC0120089, IC020092, IC022037, IC220447, IC220449, IC020457, IC220462, IC349932, IC349933, IC432144, IC432145 and NIC058127 are being maintained in the field gene bank. Characterized data revealed the variability for fruit size-small, medium; fruit shape-round, oblong; fruit colour-yellow, light yellow, mostly free stone adherence to a pulp; pulp colour light orange, deep yellow and bitter kernel taste. Flowering started in the first fortnight of February and lasted until the third week of March. Fruit maturity ranged from 81-96 days. Fruit length varies 26.00-32.98 mm, fruit width 20.00-27.47 mm and fruit weight 10.87-31.28 g.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla