Origin and distribution
Behmi belongs to the family Rosaceae, also called as smooth pit peach. The trees are small, found in the wild state in the forests of the dry temperate region of the western Himalayas, Bhutan, Tibet and west China. It is believed that it is endemic to Tibet plateau and Sinkiang province of western China. Some taxonomists have reported behmi as natural hybrid between peach and almond while some considered it as separate species.
Behmi is a deciduous tree, 8-10 m tall, spreading and greyish brown bark. It is generally growing at 2500 -3000 m in Himalayan region. Leaves are lanceolate, thin pointed apex, base round, 13-14 cm long, 3.0-3.5 cm wide, petiolated finely serrate margin, upper surface glabrous, lower surface pubescent. The young shoots stem is purple pigmented. Flowers are white with a tinge of pink at base, hermaphrodite.
Pollination takes place by bees and other insects. Flowering occurs in March and continues till April. The fruits ripen in September and October. They are round pointed, base round, greenish yellow, fuzzy on surface, 3-3.5 cm long, 2.5-3.0 cm broad, weight about 20-25 g each and TSS of fruit pulp 9-11%. Stones are oval shaped, cling, about 2 cm long, 1.3 cm broad, sour in taste, but sometime sweet.
Nutritional value and uses: The fruits sun dried and used later for making hard alcoholic liquor that is quite popular in local tribes. Behmi seedlings are used as a rootstock for peach and almond. The fruits of 100 g edible portion of behmi have acidity 2.03%, total soluble solids (10.9%), total sugar (4.83%), reducing sugar (2.02%) and non-reducing sugar (2.67%).
The plants of Behmi prefer light sandy, loamy well drained soil. However, it can be grown in heavy soil (clay), slightly acidic or neutral moist soils. Plants can be propagated through seeds, soft wood cuttings, layering but the most common method is seed propagation. Seeds require 60-90 days cold stratification. The stones are extracted from fully ripped fruits, cleaned and kept for stratification in the sand or refrigerator.
After stratification, seeds are placed in the nursery beds in the month of March. The germination Flowering twig of Behmi is rather slow, sometimes takes 50-60 days to germinate. When seedlings are large enough to handle, then it should be planted in the field at a distance of 3-5 m row to row and 1-2 m plant to plant in the month of March-April. Generally, one-year-old plants are procured from the nursery for planting. The saplings should be planted to the same depth as it was in the nursery in the pits already made.
Soil around the plant should thoroughly be pressed followed by making a ring around it. Watering should be done immediately after planting. The plants should be trained using modified leader system, so that available space and sunlight could be utilized by the plants at maximum extent. A dose of 30-40 kg FYM and 100 g mixture of NPK in the ration is 2:1:1 per year age of plant with should be given in the month of December for proper growth and development and dose can be increased subsequently as the tree advanced in the age. Flowering takes place in the month of March and fruits ripen in August.
Four plants of accessions IC349926 are being maintained in the field gene bank at Shimla, however, due to lack of proper chilling hours these plants bear fruits occasionally.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla