Need for conservation and eco-restoration of indigenous underutilized fruit crops in Manipur

Prof RK Dilip Singh, Asstt Prof S Romen Singh, Asstt Prof M Chanchan
The state of Manipur commonly known as “Jewel of India” is located at 23.80°-25.68°N latitude and 93.03°-94.78°E longitude of the total geographical area (22,327 km2) .Manipur is a part of biodiversity hotspot of Himalaya and Indo-Burma in the world which has diverse indigenous fruit crops both in valley and hill regions which remain unexplored till now.It has diverse agro-climatic zones viz.sub-tropical hill zone, sub-tropical plain zone, mild tropical hill zone, mild tropical plain zone and sub-temperate hill zone growing different kinds of fruit crops from time immemorial. A lot of research on ethnobotany was done since 1980s in Manipur and some findings are available on accounts of its folklore.However, availability of most of these indigenous underexploited fruit crops are now depleting rapidly owing to various factors such as ‘Jhum/shifting cultivation’, forest fire, felling of trees for timber and rapid human population. The underutilized fruit crops need to be rescue and improved through research, conservation efforts, technology and marketing network. Underutilized fruit crops conservation is one among the keen interest taken up by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) which is one of leading international organization in this 21st century. Minimum research works has been carried out regarding the potential of indigenous underexploited fruit crops found in Manipur and till now no report on identification of superior germplasm of underutilized fruit crops and promotion for vast cultivation. Therefore in order to provide the information about the importance of indigenous underutilized / underexploited fruit crops the present investigation has to be initiated so that people of Manipur are aware of its conservation for the future.
Lists of important indigenous underutilized fruit crops of Manipur
Castonopis armata (U-thangjing), Citrus macroptera (Heiribob), Citrus medica(Heiribob),  Docynia indica(Heitup), Ficus auriculata(Heirit), Ficus palmate(Heibam/Heibala), Myrica esculenta(Nonganghei), Garcinia pedunculata(Heibung), Juglan regia (Heijuga), Prunus cerasus (Cherry), Plukenetia volubilis (Mountain pea nut), Rhus semialata (Heimang), Pyrus pashia (Heiyu), Aegle marmelos(Heirikhagok), Artocarpus heterophyllus(Theibong), Averrhoa carambola(Heinoujom), Elaeagnus umbellata(Heiyai), Dillenia indica(Heigiri), Artocarpus lakoocha (Harikokthong),Emblica officinalis(Heikru), Elaeagnus umbellata(Heiyai), Rubus ellipticus(Heiyampet), Olea ferruginea (Chorphon), Baccaura sapida (Motokhei), Antidesma bunius (Heiyen), Flacourtia jangomas (Heitroi), Tetrastigma bracteolatum (Mojamhei), Spondias pinnata (Heining), Meyna laxiflora (Heibi), Sygygium jumbos (Shileima), Syzygium cumini (Jam/Jamun) and Phyllanthusacidulous (Kihori).
Endangered indigenous fruit plants in Manipur
Among the indigenous fruit plants of Manipur, citrus species viz. Citrus macroptera(heiribob) and Citrus medica(heiyang) are among the endangered plants which need conservation and eco-restoration as well as in situ conservation. Besides,all these novel indigenous fruit crops need conservation since due to rapid deforestation their native place of its growing sites are decreasing day by day which need coordinated efforts among different agencies such as Government, NGOs and research institutions for strengthening the biodiversity conservation system together for these important valuable fruit crops.
Constraints for cultivation of indigenous fruit crop cultivation in Manipur
1. Lack of quality planting materials
2. Lack of standardization of vegetative propagation methods
3. Lack of scientific way of cultivation and agro-techniques
4. Lack of  knowledge about the different process products from it
5. Rapid expansion of human population and deforestation in its growing site
Importance of indigenous fruit crops in Manipur
1. Provide income generation since there is good demand in the market
2. Good source of nutrients (antioxidant, vitamin and minerals)
3. Value addition and processed products can be prepared
4. Soil erosion can be control by conserving indigenous underutilized fruit crops since they are abundant in the hilly tract of Manipur
5. They are a source of medicinal value for the treatments of diseases in remote places like starfruit / carambola for curing jaundice etc.
Prospects of indigenous fruit crops in Manipur
1. Scope for the expansion of this novel fruit crops due to increase in demand of this medicinally important fruit crops
2. Underutilized fruits are a rich source of vitamins and minerals which will be helpful for minimizing malnutrition in remote areas
3. Conservation of indigenous fruit crops will be helpful for eco-restoration of forest in the hilly tracts
The rural people of Manipur are using these plants as traditional medicine as well as income generation for their livelihood. At present scenario, there is lack of encouraging timely scientific intervention to ensure the ecological aspect of biodiversity conservation thereby increasing the scope for conservation of gene bank for such medicinally important plants which are threatened to be extinct mainly due to rapid population and deforestation. Thus, if this hidden wealth of novel indigenous underutilized fruit species is explored without further delay for eco-restoration, the state like Manipur which is a part of hotspot of biodiversity could maintain diverse indigenous underutilized fruit crops having medicinal value and rich in nutritive values.
For further details contact:- Public Relation & Media Management Cell, AU, Imphal. Email: [email protected]