Prayagraj, for as long as one can remember, has been known for its white and pink guavas.
But this year, a driver-turned-farmer Rudra Pratap has accomplished a feat by growing in a climate not known to be favourable for the fruit.
Rudra's apple orchard is located in Rampur village in Prayagraj and has about 35 apple trees that are bearing fruit for the first time.
Rudra Pratap said that he decided to have an apple orchard about five years ago when he inherited some land in the village.
"I wanted to build a house here and have an apple orchard next to it. However, when I discussed it with others, including my father, Keshav Bahadur Singh, a seasoned farmer, everyone made fun of me. They said that it was impossible to grow apples in this climate because the fruit needs a cold climate," he said.
Rudra was working in Mumbai as a driver when he met another driver from Shimla who gave him tips on apple farming.
"Three years ago, I got 200 apple tree saplings of Hariman-99 variety and planted them on my farmland but they failed to flourish and the trees wilted away. I did not give up and took the advice of an apple grower from Kashmir. We decided to cross breed by grafting with an apple variety called 'Anna'. "This clicked instantly and the grafts flourished within a year," he said.
Explaining how he protects his apple trees, Rudra said, "To protect the trees from moths, mites and other pests, I spray a safe pesticide procured from the local Jari market once a month. I irrigate the trees once every three days to ensure that they have adequate water and humidity using a submersible pump. To protect the trees from the hot winds that blow during summers, I have planted banana trees all around the orchard and it seems to be working perfectly."
His father, aged 75 years, helps him in tending to the orchard.
Rudra Pratap is now settled in Prayagraj while his sons are working in Mumbai and daughter is pursuing her MBA there.
Meanwhile, Krishna Mohan Chaudhary, chief horticulturist at the Horticultural Experiment and Training Centre in Kushrubagh, said, "Rudra Pratap's efforts are praiseworthy. We have low chilling varieties of apples and efforts are on to grow them in plains, including UP. The quality of apples is judged by taste, texture and fragrance and only after checking these apples on those parameters, will we be able to determine the commercial value of the fruits."