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Variability in Morphological and Phenological Characters of Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) Genotypes from Wild Population in Shimla District of Himachal Pradesh

Nirmla Chauhan, Dinesh Singh, K. Kumar, R. K. Dogra and Suman Bodh

  • Page No:  104 - 110
  • Published online: 16 Aug 2019
  • DOI: HTTPS://DOI.ORG/10.23910/IJEP/2019.6.3.0316

  • Abstract
  •  nirmlachauhan90@gmail.com

Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) is one of the most important stone fruits, basically due to its good taste and multiple uses. Commercial growing of apricots is marred by monoculture owing to predominance of very few cultivars like New Castle, Royal etc. However, there is a wide array of germplasm of apricot growing wild in north-western Himalayas. The ever-changing environment and consumer preferences demand apricots with wider adaptation and better yield and fruit quality. This is necessitated more from crop diversification point of view, and also in view of the widespread use of apricot in processing, thus enhancing farmer’s income. So, efforts were made to select superior genotypes from wild apricots in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh during 2015–16. Observations on flowering, tree and leaf characters were recorded in 42 genotypes.  Late and extended flowering was observed among the selected genotypes. Maximum trunk girth (78.84 cm) was recorded in SCK5 under Chirgaon location. Opening of flower stated from 4th week of February (SRB1, SRB3, SRB4, SR2, STB1, STB2 and STB3) and extended upto 1st week of April (SCK1, SCK3, SCK4, SCK5 and SCK6). These characters can be used for further breeding improvement of apricots like late flowering trait to protect it from spring frost.

Keywords :   Genotypes, flowering, selection, Shimla, wild apricot

  • Introduction

    Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) is a deciduous tree species belonging to family Rosaceae and grown worldwide in mild temperate to extreme cold regions.  In India, it is cultivated in hilly regions of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand (Parmar and Kaushal, 1982). Some varieties of apricot can be grown in slightly warmer regions of Punjab, Haryana and plains of Himachal Pradesh. Total area under apricot cultivation in Himachal Pradesh is 3680 hectares with production 4635 MT during 2017–2018 (Department of Horticulture, 2019). This delicious stone fruit is commercially used both for dessert and processing purpose and it is rich in vitamin A and contains more carbohydrates, protein, phosphorous and niacin than majority of other common fruits (Teskey and Shoemaker, 1972).

    Besides the existing commercial plantations of cultivated forms, there is prevalence of large populations of seedling apricot trees growing wild commonly known as ‘Zardalu’, ‘Chulli’, ‘Chir’ or ‘Sara’ found naturalized in the north-western Himalayas particularly in Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti, Chamba, Kullu, Shimla, Solan and Mandi districts of Himachal Pradesh. The natural population of wild seedling apricot found growing as scattered trees in the interiors of dry temperate region of Himachal Pradesh are particularly important for high sugar content (drying type). The kernels of wild apricots are both sweet and bitter and the bitter kernels are used for oil extraction. In the temperate regions of Himachal Pradesh, large quantities of these wild apricots are collected for oil extraction. 

    It is well known that there is a wide array of germplasm of wild apricot growing in north-western Himalayas. The wild apricot has also been collected in past but that has been used mainly as rootstock for cultivated types.  Hitherto, a very meager effort has been made by the horticulturists for the selection of superior apricot genotypes with desirable traits from these natural populations present abundantly in Himachal Pradesh.  There may be some seedling trees growing wild which may have very good dessert quality, high sugar content and sweet kernels and suitable for drying. Dry apricot has tremendous export potential provided international standards are maintained in production and marketing technology and this only can be achieved through the planting of quality material commercially having desirable traits. So keeping in view the present investigations were carried out in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh to select superior genotypes with late flowering characters from wild population.

  • Materials and Methods

    The study was conducted covering existing seedling apricot tree population in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. The region opted for research particularly falls under high hills wet temperate zone which stretched from N 31°07.779’ to N 31°44.338’ and E 077°15.810’ to E 077°61.363’ with elevation ranging from 1411–2535 meters above mean sea level. The selection was based on fruit size and TSS as well as feedback collected (estimated age of the tree, sweet kernel, high oil content and attractive fruit colour with red blush) from local people and farmers in the form of questionnaire. On the basis of pre-selection survey about 250 genotypes were selected, out of which 42 genotypes were taken for further analysis and their tree, flowering, and foliage characters were observed (Table 1).

    The experimental data of all the metric characters studied were subjected to the statistical analysis. Test of significance suggested by Panse and Sukhatme (1985) was used. The statistical analysis was carried out for each observed character by using MS-Excel.

  • Results and Discussion

    Tree vigour and growth habit are important horticultural trait which determines the bearing age and potential in fruit crops. The apricot trees under study varied in age ranging from 15 years to more than 45 years.

    Among the genotypes studied from Shimla district 28 genotypes had shown upright growth habit, while 14 genotypes were found to be spreading type. Trunk girth ranged from18.72 to 78.84 cm in the genotypes of Shimla district. Maximum trunk girth (78.84 cm) was observed in SCK5 and minimum (18.72 cm) in SKK3. Average trunk girth was reported to be 47.53 cm and their coefficient of variation was 33.77 %. The shoot colour of current growth was observed to be Green-Group (143 A) in 8 genotypes; (143 B) in 4 genotypes; (143 C) in 6 genotypes; (142 A) in 11 genotypes, (142 B) in 5 genotypes and (141 B) in 8 genotypes. In case of one year old shoot, genotypes were found to be Grey Orange Group (166 A) in 8 genotypes; (166 B) in 4 genotypes; (165 A) in 19 genotypes and (165 B) in 11 genotypes among the genotypes studied from Shimla district (Table 2).

    Similar kind of variations in tree characters is in confirmation with the previous studies on apricot (Parmar and Sharma, 1992; Wani and Mughal, 2017) considerable variation so observed in growth parameters can mainly be attributed to differences in age and that their trees have not been subjected to any training and pruning practices.

    3.1.  Foliage characters

    Leaf length of genotypes studied from Shimla district varied from 2.05 cm (STB3) to 5.56 cm (SRB6). The overall mean for leaf length was recorded as 3.53 cm. Coefficient of variation was 19.27%. Leaf width was observed to be ranged from 0.98 cm (STB1) to 4.46 cm (SKK1) with an average leaf width of 2.64 cm. Coefficient of variation was recorded as 31.48% in genotypes of Shimla district. Minimum leaf area was observed as 26.52 cm2 in SR3 whereas; maximum was 39.09 cm2 in SRB6. The average leaf area of genotypes of Shimla district recorded as 32.47 cm2 and their coefficient of variation was observed as 8.13%. Petiole length of genotypes studied under Shimla district varied from 20.98 mm (SCK7) to 45.70 mm (SRB5) with an average petiole length of 32.45 mm. Coefficient of variation was observed as 17.77%. Glands were absent in SR1, SJM1, SCJ3 and SCDh2. Number of glands in remaining genotypes ranged from 1.00 (SRB6, SCK4 and SM2) to 5.33 (STB3) with an average number of glands 2.94 in the genotypes studied in Shimla district. Coefficient of variation was recorded as 53.73% (Table 3).

    Colour of emerging leaves in the genotypes studied from Shimla district was observed to be Yellow Green Group (147 A) in 13 genotypes; (147 B) in 16 genotypes; (146 A) in five genotypes and (146 C) in eight genotypes. Colour of matured leaves was recorded to be Green Group (138 A) in three genotypes; (138 B) in six genotypes; (138 C) in three genotypes; (137 A) in seven genotypes; (137 B) in 14 genotypes and (137 C) in nine genotypes. Among the genotypes studied under Shimla district leaf margin was observed to be serrate in 33 genotypes and biserrate in nine genotypes. Leaf surface of all the genotypes studied under Shimla and Kinnaur district was found to be smooth (Table 4).

    The variation in leaf characters are considered as distinguishing features for description and identification of fruit species and cultivars (Upshall, 1924). However, in the present study no marked variation was observed in leaf shape, surface, margins as well as colour except for some in leaf length, width and area (Table 3 and 4). The leaf area varied from 25.74 to 39.36 cm2 under genotypes of Kinnaur district whereas; in Shimla district it ranged from 26.52 to 39.09 cm2. The colour of mature leaves was green and yellow green in all the genotypes. Similar results pertaining to foliage characters were reported by various workers (Rana and Verma, 2011; Kamrani and Bouzari, 2013; Krichenet al., 2014; Ullah et al., 2017) in the past. 

    3.2.  Flower characters

    Initiation of flowering indicated by time of flower emergence was observed in 4th week of February and it was extended upto 1st week of March. Full bloom was observed from 2nd week of March and it was extended upto 3rd week of April in genotypes studied under Shimla district. Length of flowers in the genotypes selected for studies under Shimla district ranged from22.89-34.43 mm. Average length of flower was observed to be 28.30 mm and their coefficient of variation was recorded as 9.93%. Breadth of flowers in the genotypes selected for studies under Shimla district ranged from12.21–19.12 mm. Average breadth of flower was observed to be 16.31 mm and their coefficient of variation 9.72%. Bearing habit in the genotypes of Shimla district was observed to be on spur (23 genotypes), on one year old shoot (11 genotypes) and on both (8 genotypes). Colour of flowers was observed to be pinkish white in 31 genotypes and white in 11 genotypes among the genotypes of Shimla district (Table 5).

    The variation in time of flowering may be due to the differences in the chilling hour requirement to break bud dormancy in the selected genotypes. The onset of apricot flowering is dependent on the temperature increase after dormancy and is correlated with air temperature (Blasse and Hofmann, 1993). Vachun (2003) reported that the temperature ranging from 7-9 °C determined the start of the beginning of flowering. Late blossoming is an important factor to protect any damage caused by spring frost (Unal et al., 1999), as it is one of the main objectives in the first phase of the apricot breeding programme. Such variation in flower characters have also been reported by several workers (Gulcan et al., 2006; Maria et al., 2010; Polat and Caliskan, 2013; Kumar et al., 2016).

  • Conclusion

    The present studies were undertaken to determine some phonological, tree and leaf characters of wild apricot genotypes selected from Shimla district on the basis of fruit size and TSS. The 42 wild apricot genotypes were selected in the Shimla district for further studies.  It has been determined that selected genotypes from this region showed a wide variation in most of the traits. These characters can be used for further breeding improvement of apricots like late flowering trait to protect it from spring frost.


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Chauhan N, Singh D, Kumar K, Dogra RK, Bodh S. Variability in Morphological and Phenological Characters of Apricot (Prunus armeniaca L.) Genotypes from Wild Population in Shimla District of Himachal Pradesh IJEP [Internet]. 16Aug.2019[cited 8Feb.2022];6(1):104-110. Available from: http://www.pphouse.org/ijep-article-details.php?art=201

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