Japani Phal / Amar fruit / Persimmon fruit cultivation in india

Persimmon, Japani Phal, a fruit which is not really common in most parts of india but cultivated in Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and parts of tamil Nadu is consumed fresh and dried. Most people have not even heard of this fruit let alone taste one. Though grown in India, the fruit is not very popular in most parts of the country. Unlike mangoes, Apple or Oranges, Persimmon is not widely available. The seasonal fruit is also called amarphal in hindi and Japani Phal colloquially. 

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While most people say that the fruit looks and tastes like tomato, many others differ in the description. When it comes to persimmon, the taste of the fruit depends on the variety and the ripeness of the fruit. The fruit is not palatable unless its fully ripe. The more ripe, the better and sweeter it tastes. A bit raw and you will have a bad taste in your mouth. 

Persimmons are consumed fresh during the seasons but they are peeled and dried in shade to be consumed in winter, when its off season. The Persimmon fruit comes in two types. The Astringent type and the Non astringent type. As the name suggests, the tastes differ to each of these types.

Astringent Varieties : Eureka, Hachiya, Honan Red, Saijo, Tamopan, Tanesnashi and triumph

Non Astringent Varieties: Fuyu , Gosho, Imoto, Izu, Jiro, Maekawajiro, Okugosho, suraga

The Fruit was first cultivated in China and even today 75% of all persimmons come from china. India produces a very small fraction of the entire persimmon production and is not even sufficient for local consumption, let alone exports. The major chunk of persimmon cultivation comes from Himachal pradesh with over 10,000 Farmers cultivating persimmon in less than 500 hectares of land in total. That’s a significantly low production area as compared to other fruits. 

Recent times have seen a good market for Persimmon fruit. A good amount of promotion from the government and exposure to foreign market has made this fruit relatively popular, compared to just a decade ago. Even with all the promotions, The persimmon farming industry lacks organized planting, Proper planting material, backed training, standardisation and education. Today, farmers are cultivating persimmon based on the knowledge they had acquired over the years traditionally. Very few farmers in the Himachal Pradesh have the right knowledge of Persimmon fruit growing. Reviving the traditional methods seems a bit far fetched and considering the fact that a lot of new techniques and practices have evolved over the years, traditional methods are often not feasible for commercial persimmon farming. 

Like all commercial fruit farming, persimmon farming needs to be standardised. Adequate training and planting material should be provided. Tests need to be done and the right variety should be identified based on soil and weather conditions. The current stage is more of trial and error with no proper documentation and most of these are done by the farmers themselves.

Farmers currently face a range of problems from poor fruit setting, heavy drop of young fruits, astringent nature of fruits and insufficient knowledge of fruit maturity. To top this all, Consumers are not aware of the fruit itself and the consumption methods. (https://www.ishs.org/ishs-article/685_4)

Persimmon Farming – Farming Japani phal From the beginning

Japani Phal, Or persimmon, is started from seed. Amlook , or the indian persimmon plant is the rootstock used for best results for starting persimmon trees in india. The rootstocks are either budded or grafted when the root stock is ready. Chip budding is done in August and grafting is done in April. Best results are seen in grafted plants. Mother plants which need to be grafted should be selected with care. Mother plants should be free from any diseases and the yield should be high. Tested mother plants are required and most often, mother plants need to be from the same area. This is often a challenge. Unless you are testing for a new variety (which shouldn’t be done largescale) , Persimmon mother plants should be already available in your area. This assures that the plant will survive and have a long healthy life.

The soil conditions for persimmons are often not a concern. High organic matter is recommended and a PH level of 6.5-7.5 is recommended. Plant spacing are 15 feet By 15 feet or 20 Feet by 20 feet depending on the mother plant variety and its growth. Remember that a persimmon tree can grow to a height of 15 meters and its recommended that you know which variety you are planting and what height the plant can get to. The trees live long and some trees in India are known to be over 70 years old and still healthy and yielding. Older trees have a potential of high yield , up to 500 KG per year while younger trees do a moderate 200 KG per year. 

Pests are minimal in persimmon and the most common problems include thrips, whitefly and mites. Ref : https://farmer.gov.in/imagedefault/ipm/persimmon.pdf. A complete list of all pests and diseases that affect persimmon is available on the link above. 

Persimmon also requires proper care. Pruning happens just before winter ends. The bark of the tree should be removed using water spray. Though this is a good practice, it requires time and effort. If avoided, the chances of pests do increase. Removing the dead bark after winter will ensure that the new bark is fresh and free from pests. The dead bark will attract a range of pests including termites which is not good in the long run. Dry and smaller branches are pruned during this period. Trees should be allowed to have only strong branches.

In the onset of spring, New buds will evolve from the tree and this is where new flowers will set and then the fruits. More than 2 branches should not be allowed in a set. Smaller evolving  branches should be cut down and only 2 branches should be allowed per node. When fruit setting starts, allow only one fruit per branch. This ensures bigger and better quality fruits in the tree. Leaving all the fruits to set will increase the number of fruits but the size of the fruit will be much smaller and the quality will deteriorate.

Irrigation is required once a month. 

One of the main reasons why Japaniphal is so expensive is because of all the work involved. Winter is the only time when these farmers do not have work. Continuous management of the tree is crucial at every stage from the end of winter to the end of harvest. 

From the first fruit setting to maturity, it takes 2 and a half months. Harvest is done when the fruits are tender and ripe, often reddish in color. Fruits that are not soft will usually be astringent and not suitable for consumption. Some non astringent varieties are excellent even when not completely ripe. The fruits are very soft and can be scooped of with a spoon when fully ripe. They are chalky in texture when they are not ripe and the non astringent varieties, though consumable, do not develop the desired taste unless tender.

The fruits have a good shelf life of up to 2 months if stored in temperature between 0 and 2 degrees. They can also be dried in shade with proper ventilation. Traditionally, the persimmon fruit is stringed by the pedicel and hung in a well ventilated room until the water content is removed. 

Persimmon fruits have high sugar content up to 20%. When dried the sweetness increases and makes the fruit even better for those with a sweet tooth. The fruit is used for baking and a range of confectioneries. But in india, the fruit is consumed mostly fresh and in parts where they are cultivated, also dry.

Why Persimmon is a great fruit to cultivate and how does it benefit farmers?

To begin with, Persimmon cannot be cultivated just about anywhere in india. The best places are those where apples can be cultivated. Most farmers cultivating apples already know the decline in the price of apples in the country. The fruit, though costs 150 -300 during off seasons have a nominal price of 100 rs per kilo in retail during seasons. Though the price in Delhi and Mumbai are high for apples, the actual price farmers get is a lot less than what we buy for. Expect a nominal price of Rs 30 per kilo for farmers. On the Contrary, Persimmon , due to its demand and lack of availability, commands a much higher price. A price of 120 Rs is nominal for good quality persimmon when obtained from a farmer. 

The best part is that most areas which can cultivate apple is suitable for persimmon cultivation. Today, farmers are moving towards persimmon farming gradually. The tree starts bearing fruits in 4-5 years and has an average production by the end of 10 years. The same time is required for cultivation of apple too. 

Persimmon tolerates high winters and hardy weather. While some of the areas in himachal pradesh and kashmir have limitations of weather, Persimmon is one of the few fruits which can counter this problem. Today farmers can expect a different crop from the usual apple farming practiced here.

In Himachal pradesh alone Solan, Hamipur, sirmour, kullu, mandi,  kangra, una districts have approximately 3000 Tonnes per year in production of Persimmon.

The most popular varieties grown in these area include hachiya and Fuyu.