Origin and distribution
The currants belong to the genus Ribes and family Saxifragaceae. About 60 species exist under this genus, which grows in cold regions of the Northern Hemisphere and South America. The important one red currant (R. rubrum L.) is a native of Central and Northern Europe and black currant (R. nigrum L.) native of Northern and Central Asia. Both these species occurs in natural wild state in Himalayas from Kashmir to Bhutan, where it is called as Karu dhak, Amlanch, Baikunthi, Nabar, Dak. There are white, green fleshed coloured varieties of R. rubrum all supposed to be native of Britain and a green-berried variety of R. nigrum is considered to be native of Russia.
Red currant occurs in cold arid areas like Kinnaur, Lahaul & Spiti and Pithoragarh at an altitudes ranging from 2300-3500 m. It is an erect shrub, grow up to 3 m, leaves ovate-cordate, 3-5 lobed, raceme elongate, pendulous, flowers greenish yellow, berries red and smooth. Fruits ripened in August-September and are rich in vitamin C and pectin content. Black currant is also found throughout the Himalayan range between 2100-3600 m. The Himalayan types bear large and palatable fruits like that of cultivated. It is an erect shrub, stem stout, pubescent when young with strong odour characteristic. Leaves are 3-5 lobed, serrate. Flowers are greenish purple in pendulous racemes, berries globose, black, strongly aromatic and too acidic.
Nutritional value and uses
Ripe fruits of currants are used for culinary, canning, jam, juice jelly preparation, wine making and for sale as fresh fruit in the market. The currants are a rich source of vitamins and minerals.
Currants are hardy fruit, grow best and produce fruits in a cool and slightly humid climate. They do not perform well in dry and warm climate. Currants can be Ribes nigrum grown in wide range of soils varying from heavy clay to loam but deep, fertile and well drained is preferred. The optimum soil pH from 4.6-4.8 is recommended. Propagation of currants can be done through hardwood cuttings, mount layering and grafting, but best propagation method is hardwood cuttings.
Cuttings should be 30-40 cm usually taken from current year’s wood in autumn and to be planted in rows 30-40 cm apart leaving a space of 20-25 cm between each cutting. The eye of the lower part of the cutting should be rubbed off otherwise they come up as suckers. For mount layering, branches are cut back to 8- 10 cm above ground in early spring. In July, soil is mounted around the vigorous shoots, covering half their length. The rooted shoots should be removed in early spring and set to the nursery for one year before them in the field. For grafting, Ribes aureum is used as rootstock.
Grafting is done in January-February. Planting of one or two year old grafted plants should
be done allowing 2 x 2 m between bushes and rows. Light pruning is recommended, which is mainly carried out in dormant season. The young plants are cut back to several strong shoots at planting time. Usually 3-6 shoots are selected and trained to form an open bush. Shoot developing near the ground should be removed. Adult bush needs manure and fertilizers application @ of 5-10 kg FYM and 200 g mixture of NPK in the ratio of 2:1:1 in the month of January-February. Most of the Currants are self-fertile and takes 2-3 years to come into bearing. Flowering takes place in July and August and fruit ripen in September-October. Fruits are perishable thus need immediate storage.
A total of six accessions of Ribes has been established in the field gene bank. The exotic accessions viz. EC453306, EC453307, EC453308, EC453309 and EC453310 have been introduced from the USA and one accession IC548114 have collected from Churdhar highland of Shimla. Other species like R. orientale and R. glaciale are resistant to white pine blister rust and R. alpestre is resistant to Aphis grossulariae.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla