GUWAHATI, Oct 11 - The State government is looking to achieve at least 90 per cent utilisation of training capacity within four years at the recently set up Centre of Excellence (Citrus) at Bamunigaon, Boko, near the city.
Senior horticulture department officials told The Assam Tribune that work has also been initiated to achieve the full potential of producing 40,000 budded plants of Khasi mandarin and 1.5 lakh cuttings of Assam lemon and edible rough lemon from the facility.
“Besides the core rationale to make available disease-free planting materials for increasing the production of citrus crops in Assam and demonstrating the production of citrus fruits such as mandarin, lemon and among others using precision farming techniques, the Centre of Excellence (Citrus) is also tasked with imparting training and capacity building of citrus growers, departmental personnel and nursery people,” said an official.
He added, “The ultimate target is to have 44 batches of trainees each year, with 30 trainees per batch, thus taking the annual number to a total of 1,320 trainees. We will steadily increase the intake for the training programme each year and within four years we are expecting to achieve at least 90 per cent capacity utilisation. This means training at least 1,190 citrus growers, departmental personnel and nursery people annually.”
Short duration training courses, combining adequate theory background and practical hands-on experience, are planned for benefit of the different categories of stakeholders. The syllabus for the various programmes will be progressively framed in consultation with research and educational institutions.
The horticulture department had inaugurated the centre, which is spread across an area of 11.8 hectares, in August this year.
“The output of citrus crops in Assam is about 3.23 lakh MT or 3.2 per cent of the national output. This includes over 1.95 lakh MT of mandarin, which is five per cent of the national output, and over 1.25 MT of lemon or seven per cent of India’s output, and 1,680 MT of sweet orange,” said the official.
For the Centre of Excellence (Citrus), the focus crops will initially include Khasi mandarin, Assam lemon, edible rough lemon, sweet orange, Nagpur orange, kinno, jaffa, and other varieties of oranges. Rough lemon will be used as root stock for budding.
“Approximately 40,000 budded plants of Khasi mandarin and 1,50,000 cuttings of Assam lemon and edible rough lemon can be produced per year from the facility,” he said.
Sources said that productivity of citrus crops has been declining in many parts of Assam due to increased incidence of citrus dieback.
“In order to overcome this problem and make available disease-free planting materials, the centre will supply high quality and disease-free quality planting materials of different citrus crops, demonstrate the production of citrus fruits and the post-harvest handling of citrus crops, undertake training and capacity building, besides acting as a repository of indigenous citrus species. It may be necessary to consider the introduction of additional citrus crops later on after considering the pertinent factors,” said an official.
The process for deployment of manpower at the centre to realise its full potential is yet to be completed but sources said the process is likely to be completed in the near future.
According to the horticulture department, the requirement of planting materials in the State for Khasi mandarin is expected to touch four lakh grafted or budded plants by 2018-19, while for Assam lemon it will rise to 9.34 lakh stem or leaf bud cuttings.