Agriculture and Farming Technology Updates

Sea Buckthorn Berry: Commercial cultivation of Himalayan berry will start soon in Ladakh, it is called Wonder Plant

'Sea Buckthorn' can bring revolutionary improvement in agriculture and economy of Ladakh, its juice does not freeze even in Siachen

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Commercial cultivation of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ berry will start in Ladakh from the coming spring season. The Union Ministry of Science and Technology hopes that such capabilities exist in the cultivation and processing of herbal product ‘Sea Buckthorn’, popularly known as ‘Wonder Plant’ and ‘Himalayan Gold’. It is rich in amazing medicinal properties, which will ill bring revolutionary reforms in agriculture and economy of Union Territory of Ladakh. That is why the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), working under the Ministry, has decided that it will give all necessary support to promote commercial cultivation of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ berry in collaboration with the Government of Ladakh. 

Sea Buckthorn
Image Credit: Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture

Identified the amazing properties of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ two decades ago 

The ‘Sea Buckthorn’ berry is the fruit of a shrubby tree that is found in abundance in the high altitude Himalayan regions where it is extremely cold. It has also got the name of Wonder Berry, Leh Berry and Ladakh Gold. In Himachal it is known as ‘Drilbu’ and ‘Charma’. ‘Sea Buckthorn’ is covered with bushes throughout winter in temperatures below zero. Therefore, it is also the food of birds and animals. It was identified about two decades ago in those areas of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, which are called cold deserts because there is little rain and there is very little greenery and oxygen.

Sea Buckthorn
Image Credit: Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture

A boon made for Lahaul and Spiti district 

‘Sea Buckthorn’ is now considered a boon for the economy and environment of Lahaul and Spiti district with a population of 30-35 thousand. This is the reason that in Ladakh with a climate like Spiti, a strategy was made to promote its commercial and organic farming. By the way, the mention of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ is also found in the ancient ‘Amchi’ (science of healing) medical system of Tibet and in the Tibetan literature of the eighth century. The entire 30 pages of the medical literature of Tibet are full of descriptions of the medicinal properties of sea buckthorn. But research conducted a few decades ago found that in addition to the fruits of the ‘Sea Buckthorn’ berry, its leaves, stems, roots and thorns are also very beneficial. After this ‘Sea Buckthorn’ Berry got the title of ‘Wonder Plant’ and ‘Himalayan Gold’.

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Sea Buckthorn
Image Credit: Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture

Plan made for five districts with high altitude 

In the year 2010, the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment and Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) together started many researches regarding ‘Sea Buckthorn’ berry. Then a plan was made to promote its cultivation in five high-altitude districts of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir. For this, the Territorial Army (TA) and some non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of local women were brought together to create employment opportunities along with environmental protection. For this training related to pulping, product design and packaging was provided with the help of Defense Institute of High Altitude Research, Leh (DIHAR) and the local youth and farmers were also connected with it.

Sea Buckthorn
Image Credit: National Agricultural Innovation Project

‘Sea Buckthorn’ juice does not freeze in Siachen 

DIHAR has developed such a technology for preparation of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ fruit juice, due to which ‘Sea Buckthorn’ juice does not freeze in extremely cold areas like Siachen, Dras or Kargil. Thus, ‘Sea Buckthorn’ proved to be very useful for soldiers stationed on the frontiers of snowy altitudes as its products keep them fit and healthy. After getting its technology patented, DIHAR transferred it to self-help groups, some NGOs and local entrepreneurs. It has been used to prepare herbal teas, anti-oxidant supplements, apricot juice, jams, jellies, sea buckthorn oil, soft gel capsules, UV protective oils, bakery products and animal feed.

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ODOP Rating in Lahaul and Spiti 

Before choosing Ladakh for commercial cultivation of ‘Sea Buckthorn’, the results of its cultivation in Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh were so encouraging that under the Central Government’s One District One Product (ODOP) scheme, ‘Sea Buckthorn’ is kept for Spiti. ‘ Cultivation and its processing industry were selected. Let us inform that the ODOP scheme was started from Uttar Pradesh in January 2018 and taking inspiration from there, in the year 2021, the Union Ministry of Food Processing implemented it in the whole country.

Sea Buckthorn
Image Credit: National Agricultural Innovation Project

Cultivation of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ became an important source of employment in Spiti 

‘Sea Buckthorn’ was selected for Ladakh because the climate there is very cold and dry like Spiti. The people of Spiti are cut off from the outside world for six months because of heavy snowfall. There has long been a search for a regular and sustainable option of employment, which can be a source of income for the local people in difficult times. The cultivation of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ has created unmatched opportunities for the people living in such inaccessible areas.

There is a lot of demand for ‘Sea Buckthorn’ in the country and abroad 

Dozens of products are made from ‘Sea Buckthorn’ such as jams, juices, herbal teas, medicines, vitamin ‘C’ supplements, energy drinks, creams, oils and soaps. It is in great demand in the country and abroad. That is why it is believed that in the field of organic farming, processing and marketing of ‘Sea Buckthorn’, local farmers, self-help groups and entrepreneurs can be provided with the best opportunities of gainful employment. For commercial farming, the full emphasis on scientists is on developing such a machine for harvesting ‘Sea Buckthorn’ berry so that its production can be increased. Because the existing equipment being used for the fruits of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ is able to extract only 10 percent of the berry.

Sea Buckthorn
Image Credit: Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture

‘Sea Buckthorn’ is full of amazing features 

From the point of view of cultivation, it is a wonderful feature of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ that its fruits flourish even in temperatures down to minus 43 degree Celsius. Its roots have the ability to absorb nitrogen from the atmosphere and prevent soil erosion. Many such nutrients are found in this fruit which are not found in other fruits and vegetables. It also contains omega oil in addition to pro-vitamins like A, B2 and C. That’s why people here call this berry as a nutritious fruit.

‘Sea Buckthorn’ has a rich heritage 

The botanical name of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ is Hippophae rhamnoides. It is also called sandthorn, sallowthorn and seaberry. Its tree grows only in such a climate where the temperature remains below zero, such as Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, China, Russia, Europe, Canada etc. Even though the name of the sea, deer and horn is mentioned, but there is no relation with this herbal tree. It is considered the world’s most beneficial fruit because it contains the most powerful antioxidant and vitamin ‘C’. It contains 80 times more vitamin ‘C’ than amla.

Sea buckthorn, containing about 190 nutrients, is considered a storehouse of vitamins, minerals and fatty acids such as omega-3, omega-6, omega-7, omega-9. Omega-7 is found only in this fruit while vitamin A, vitamin B complex, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin P flavonoids, beta carotene, zinc, iron, magnesium, methionine, leucine, lysine and glycine. are found in abundance. Apart from its fruits, leaves, thorns, seeds and roots are also very beneficial. These are available in the market in the form of many products like juices, capsules, powders and jams.

Sea Buckthorn
Image Credit: Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture

Benefits of ‘Sea Buckthorn’ 

There is hardly any part of the body, which does not benefit from ‘Sea Buckthorn’. That is why it is effective in the treatment and prevention of many diseases. ‘Sea Buckthorn’ is a great energy booster, as it improves the supply of oxygen to every cell of the body. Freshness in cell increases and they feel rejuvenated. It strengthens the body to fight against all kinds of bacteria and viruses. Its consumption benefits in many areas like liver, intestine, kidney, cholesterol, lungs, eye-sight, joint pain, skin nutrition and obesity reduction. 

‘Sea Buckthorn’ is a herbal product. There are countless benefits of consuming it. Specific details of its adverse effects are not available. But on the basis of its properties, it is suggested that pregnant women, people suffering from blood pressure and other serious diseases should consume ‘Sea Buckthorn’ according to the doctor’s advice. Because its omega fatty acids have blood thinning properties, it should not be consumed before any surgery. Its juice is in great demand in the market. They are also available in the form of capsules and powder. Its juice is sold at the rate of 600 to thousand rupees per litre. The same price is also for about 60 capsules.

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