In a first, Palampur-based Council of Scientific Research and Industrial Technology Institute of Himalayan Bio-resource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) on July 12, 2021, introduced the ‘monk fruit’ from China for field trials in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh.
As per CSIR-IHBT, this is the first-ever monk fruit cultivation in India. Fifty seedlings that CSIR-IHBT had imported from China three years back were planted for field trials in the fields of farmer Manav Khullar from Raison village. CSIR-IHBT signed a ‘Material Transfer Agreement’ with Manav.
India’ first monk fruit cultivation: CSIR-IHBT
• The pollination behavior, fruit setting time, and flowering pattern were documented to assess a complete life-cycle of monk fruit in Palampur agro-climatic conditions.
Agro-tech developed for monk cultivation: CSIR-IHBT
• CSIR-IHBT has developed a seed germination technique to decrease the germination time and boost the germination rate of monk fruit as the seed germination rate of the crop is low and slow.
• CSIR-IHBT has also worked on planting methods, standardized harvesting time, and post-harvest management practices. The planting method will aid in generating characterized planting material and the standardized harvesting time will boost the levels of Mogroside-V content in fruit.
Monk fruit: Conditions for cultivation
• The monk fruit is suited to mountainous areas with a temperature ranging between 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. The fruit is native to southern parts of China, in the mountainous areas of Yongfu, Longsheng, and Lingui counties in the northern Guangxi province.
• Despite the growing demand for fruit in the international market, China is the only country that cultivates it. However, suitable agro-climatic conditions for cultivating the fruit have been found in Himachal Pradesh, India.
• Professor G W Groff had attempted to grow Monk fruit during the 20th century but was unsuccessful as flowers did not grow.
About Monk fruit
• The monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii), also called Luo Han Guo, Buddha fruit, or Arhat fruit is an herbaceous perennial crop. The life span of the monk fruit is between four to five years. The fruiting begins eight to nine months after germination.
• The Monk fruit gets its name after the monks who first used it.
• The monk fruit is known for its properties as a non-caloric natural sweetener and high-intensity sweet taste.
• The fruit gets a sweet taste from the group of cucurbitane-type triterpene glycosides called Mogrosides. The extracted mixture of Mogrosides is 300 times sweeter than cane sugar.
• Japan has approved the purified mixture of Mogroside as a high-intensity sweetening agent, and the USA approves it as a safe food ingredient, flavour enhancer, and non-nutritive sweetener.
Monk fruit as low-calorie natural sweetener plant: Significance
• CSIR-IHBT states that intake of added cane sugars can lead to health issues such as heart disease, metabolic syndrome, Type-2 diabetes, liver problems, insulin resistance, etc. The health hazards of synthetic sweeteners of low calorific value do not make them a go-to food option.
• Therefore, the production of non-nutritive natural sweeteners is a challenge for scientists and the monk fruit is a good natural source of low-calorie sweetener compounds.