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INTRODUCTIONIndiacovers an area of 329 million hectare and attained a position of second mostpopulous country. There have been dramatic changes in the oilseeds sector ofthe country during the last 25 years. Continuous pressure on natural resourcesdue to anthropogenic activities has led decrease productivity and nutrientdeficient. During 1951–2010, the area, production and productivity of annualoilseeds in India showed a compound annual growth rate of 1.57%, 3.01% and1.42% respectively.  To reach to itsstatic position of net exporter and meet the challenges of oilseed production, adoptionof multi-pronged strategies is needed by India for productivity enhancement,improved technology, value addition etc.

to sustain soaring population of ourcountry. Incurrent scenario, India imports about 50 per cent of total oil requirement at ahuge cost of Rs.56,000 crores (2011-12). The proportion of import has increasedfrom a meagre 3 per cent in 1970-71 to almost 56 per cent in 2012-13(Hegde,2012). Consideration in the context of available sources of oil from oilseedand non-oilseed origins is essential so as to improve the carrying capacity ofIndian agriculture and to support oilseeds production in order to meet thevegetable oil needs of the Indian population. India needs to produce 17.84 Mtof vegetable oils to meet the nutritional fat needs of projected population of1685 million by 2050.Withlimited scope of increasing area under agriculture and forest, concertedefforts and scientific adjustments are needed.

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On parallel basis, there is ahuge potential of degraded and wastelands to become productive for theendowment of  vast potential of oilseedsespecially by tree borne oilseeds (TBOs) by using proper planting material andpractices followed. Accordingto NOVOD, tree borne oilseeds (TBOs) have considerable oil potential whichneeds to be fully tapped.  With theincrease in urbanization and industrialization, endowement of TBOs in India isa best alternative to bring self-sufficiency of vegetable oils production innear future. With the efficient use of wastelands, the twin objectives ofrehabilitation of a vital land resource and obtaining an energy substitute canbe achieved.The Energy Research Institute,(2002) predicted that with the number of vehiclesdoubling between 2002-2020, the demand of diesel will make up a substantialpart of this increase.

The demand of the petroleum products in India isexpected to grow by a factor of 2.2 upto the year 2030. The Indian Government’sVision 2020 document states that cultivating ten million hectares with treeborne oilseeds (TBOs) would generate 7.5 million tonnes of fuel a year,creating year-round job for five million people (Lele, 2007).Thispractice brings an opportunity for the people living inside the forest toimprove their livelihood and bring employment opportunities in forest relatedproducts.

In Kumaon and Garhwal hills, there are a number of indigenousmultipurpose tree species which provide fuel, fodder, timber, medicines etc;but very little is known about the propagation of most of these species and,therefore, they are not being included in afforestation/ reforestation orsocial forestry programmes of the foot hills.Tresscan survive in range of less favourable conditions viz., environmental,degraded etc. In this context, promotion of plantation of oilseeds of treeorigin is a good alternative.

This brings the need of identification ofsuperior clones/genotypes and development of location specific package ofpractices of important TBOs which can produce better quality and quantity ofoil and high yielding too. This calls for technology development for bringingrefinement in TBOs. The country has vast potential of more than 50 lakh tonnesof tree borne oilseeds (TBOs). However, only 8-10 lakh tonnes is beingcollected resulting in 1.5 to 2.0 lakh tonnes of oil from tree originresources. The oil extracted from some of these sources not only form an essential part of human diet but alsoserve as an important raw material for manufacturing soap, paints, varnishes,cosmetics, medicines, hair oil, lubricants, textile, auxiliaries and alsopotential substitute of diesel and kerosene. Oil cakes are used as cattle feedand organic manures (Bachheti et al.

,2012).In order to exploit the enormous challenges and possibilities, NationalOilseeds and Vegetable Oils Development (NOVOD) Board has constituted ‘NationalNetwork on Wild apricot, Cheura and other TBOs’ by involving the institutes ofICAR and CSIR to address various researchable issues, which in turn couldcontribute towards development of high yielding varieties and improved culturaland seed production practices. The participating institutes have collectedgermplasm and identified about 26 CPTs/ superior genotypes of Cheura havinghigh yield and oil content.Thewild apricot (Prunus armeniaca Linn.) is an important tree borne oilseedof mid hills and dry temperate regions of the country. Wild apricot belongs tothe family Rosaceae and sub-family Prunoidea. In the Himalayan regionof the country, local communities know it by different vernacular names viz. “Chulli”, “Shara”,”Khurmani”, “Chulu”, “Aaroo” “Zardhi”, “Chuari”, “Kushmiaru”, “Chola” and “Gurdulu”.

Wild apricot is a common fruit crop in hills in temperate deforestedregions of China. This plant species is either the dominant species in wildapricot shrub, or the subdominant or co-dominant species in other types ofshrubland on dry-sunny slopes (Keping etal., 1997), and usually be a pioneer species in the course of communitysuccession in deforested area (Zhibin etal., 2001). Apricots are soft fruits with a hard stone (stone fruits) andare generally sensitive to disease and too high or low temperatures (NOVOD2009). Wildapricot locally found in the dry temperate regions of North-Western Himalayasparticularly in the valleys of Jammu & Kashmir (especially Ladakh), Chenab;Kullu and Shimla regions of H.

P. and Garhwal hills of Uttrakhand at altitudes upto 3000 m. In Kumaon region, wild apricotisfound in all the three districts of Nainital, Almora and Pithoragarh.Pithorgarh district has maximum density of wild apricot tree in the Kumaonregion. The long cool winter (800 chilling hours below 70C), andfrost free and warm spring are favorable for fruiting.

Average summertemperature (16.60C–32.30C) is suitable for better growthand quality fruit production.

The sites located in north-eastern India at lowerelevations and on south-western at higher elevations are also suitable for itscultivations. Spring frost causes extensive damage to the blossoms, which arekilled when temperature falls below 40C. An annual rainfall of about100 cm well distributed throughout the season is good for its normal growth andfruiting.Wild apricot isquite hardy and can be grown in most of the soils, which are deep and welldrained. The horizontal and vertical root distribution of a ten year old treereached 4.5 and 2.2 m, respectively indicating that the soil for wild apricotshould be about 3 m deep.  It is adrought resistant, salt tolerant, hardy plant and less susceptible to pests anddiseases.

Thewild apricot tree is about 10-15 m tall with a reddish brown bark. Leaves areovate to round, approximately 5-9 cm long. Its somatic chromosome number is (2n)16 and basic chromosome number (X), is 8. Flowers are solitary, white orpinkish, about 2.5 cm across, borne singly and appearing much in advance of thefoliage. Fruits are around 1.5-4.0 cm across or more and hairy when young butnearly smooth skinned at maturity.

The appearances of the fruits are yellowishwith light red cheek and nearly glabrous. The flesh is yellow or yellowishorange to firm and sweet. Stone is smooth with a thickened furrowed edge. Wildapricot is mostly propagated through seeds and rarely by vegetative method suchas grafting and budding.

The multiplication through cuttings is also rarelydone. The wild apricot seedlings are used for root stock purpose forcommercial/cultivated apricot. Thewild apricot is an important fruit and tree borne oil seed crop of mid hillsand dry temperate region of the country. The hill farming communities ofHimachal Pradesh have been maintaining wild apricot trees on their farmlandbunds and adjoining crop land-support land as part of farm forestry/ agroforestrypractices (Bhan et al., 2011).Itis one of the important multipurpose trees in the region under existing systemof agro-forestry (Singh and Chaudhary, 1993). The fruit of wild apricot isunfit for table purpose due to high acids and low sugars. The seed yields 27per cent of kernels and the kernels yields about per cent of oil.

Kernels arebitter in taste which is due to the presence of a cyanogenic glycosideamygdalin (Montgomery, 1969). Oil has per cent unsaturated fatty acids (Gandhi et al., 1997) and contains 75 per centoleic acid (Aggarwal et al., 1974)and linoleic acids. The oil is utilized for cooking, body massage and as rawmaterial for cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry (Parmar and Sharma, 1992).Theoil used for medicinal, cosmetic and confectionary purpose.

The cake afterextraction of oil can be used as manure as it contains nitrogen (6.64 per cent),phosphorous (2.2 per cent) and potash (1.14 per cent). The cake can also beused as cattle feed after detoxification anti-nutritional factor namelyhydro-cyanic acid. It is also used as bio-fuel (NOVOD, 2007).

Recently, due tothe presence of compound amygdalin in it, it has a potential in cancertreatment. However, complete study is required. Scientists consider thisspecies has a potential to be used as ethno botanical study which can beexplored as a precious assets to help the suffering humanity.Vegetativepropagation is a powerful way to capture the genetic superiority of a selectedindividual.

It is an irreplaceable tool for tree domestication and breeding,and its advantages and implications have been widely treated in literature(Wright, 1976; Zobel and Talbert, 1984; Park et al., 1989). In forestry, aside from a few genera like PopuIus, Salix and Cryptomeria,vegetative propagation of “plus” trees has not been used extensivelyin most operational forest planting programs (Zobel and Talbert 1984). Most ofthe efforts were focused on timber species for their immediate economicimportance. In a scenario of rapid climate changes (IPCC 2008), with increasingland degradation and genetic diversity loss, makes it necessary to focus onspecies that are important for other functions, such as supply of non-timberproducts. Programmes involving indigenous species and impoverished communitieshave become important in the last decades (Leakey et al., 2005) and the development of low cost vegetativepropagation technologies is one of its most relevant aspects (Tchoundjeu et al., 2004; Atangana et al.

, 2006). Despite the advances intissue culture, for many conservation, domestication and breeding programmes,low cost macropropagation methods continue to be the most convenient approacheseven when human and financial resources are not scarce. Moreover, propagationsystems based on rooted cuttings have been optimized and implemented at theproduction level, resulting in outstanding gains in productivity and uniformity(Campinhos and Ikemori 1980; Delwaulle, 1985).Itis a desirable and efficient method for rapid clonal multiplication of selectedgenotypes (Bray,1984).  In vegetativepropagation, the genetic potential of a species, including the non- additivevariance, is automatically transferred to the new plant (Libby and Rauter,1984; Chaperon, 1987; Puri and Khara, 1992). Therefore, the full benefit ofbroad-sense heritability is realized rather than only some portion of thenarrow-sense heritability because both additive and non-additive sources ofgenetic variation contribute to the gain.Thesuccess of vegetative propagation depends upon proper environment, the geneticcomponents and the physiological status of cuttings, etc.

(Brix and Barker,1973; Foster et al., 1987;Cunningham, 2001). Vegetative propagation is widely used to multiply eliteplants selected from natural population and makes investment in forestry moreattractive by improving yield and quality, shortening rotation age and allowingsome of the biological problems hindering reforestation to be circumvented(Leakey et al., 1990; Arya et al., 1993). Moreover, problems fromin-vitro techniques have been overcome by recent advances in the development ofa low-technology propagation system (Leakey etal., 1990; Newton et al.

, 1992;Newton and Jones 1993), which has enabled the successful propagation of a widerange of species by leafy stem cuttings. This system utilises non-mistpropagators constructed out of cheap and readily available materials, with norequirement for a piped water and electrical supply (Leakey, 1991).Therole of vegetative propagation is also important in respect of species havingstone fruits are resistant to germination in species like Prunus armeniaca in which the seeds remain viable only for a shortperiod. Moreover, rodents feed upon wild apricot seeds, which affects germination,and seedling establishment, which eventually reduces the population of wildapricot.The seeds are also used for the production of high quality edible oil and inthe confectionary industry as an almondsubstitute (Kabu et al., 1976)Themultiplication through cuttings is also rarely done (NOVOD, 2007). Using vegetativepropagation technique for economically important species, multiplication rateof about 500 times from could be achieved (Dhiman, 1999).

Reproductionof this nature is also important where seeds have high economic value as in wildapricot. Though there are several methods of vegetative propagation of trees,rooting of branch cuttings is the most convenient and cost effective methodand, in many cases, it has already proved to be successful in massmultiplication of selected trees. Many economic crops, deciduous and evergreenfruits, ornamentals and vegetables are now being propagated by vegetativemethods. The method is practised even for raising true-to-type plants forcommercial exploitation. Many times, vegetative propagation is practised forrapid multiplication of plants. While it will take many years to get a matureplant from the seed, it can be grown to maturity from cutting in a much shortertime.Theability of cuttings to regenerate varies with the plant species. While someregenerate easily, others regenerate with difficulty and still others do notregenerate at all and are thus, obstinate.

The regeneration through cuttings isaffected by both internal and external factors. Thus, cuttings of some plantspecies regenerate throughout the year, while of others are seasonal in theirability to regenerate, spring or early summer and rainy season being moresuitable for propagating plants from cuttings. Changes in light, temperatureand humidity conditions also play a determinative role in propagation. Seasonalchanges are also affected by micro-climate of particular area, which increasethe chance of growth variation from one place to another. Many syntheticsubstances affect the regeneration of plants through cuttings.

Auxins ingeneral, promote rooting of branch cuttings. Their effectiveness, however,varies not only with the nature and concentration of the auxin and the plantspecies but also with season. Variabilitystudies provide the basic information required for genetic improvement ofspecies under any agro-climatic situation. This can be exploited throughresearch to increase yields in the future. In practice, gain from clonal propagationcan be increased due to increase in selection differential.

Selection is animportant tool in any tree improvement programme which determines the magnitudeof genetic gain that can be obtained and it provides the basis for subsequentrecurrent selections in succeeding generations. Geographicvariation exists in all plant species. The variability within a species occursthrough many types of mutations and gene exchange among divergent genotypesover a long period of time. This forms the genetic base for geographicalvariation which gets established in the population over time through isolation.Sub-population of species, after geographical isolation from other populations,can result in genetic differentiation. Most widespread species appear to becomposed of geographic lines of moderately distinct geographic ecotypes (Wrightet al., 1958). Species improvementprogramme is a multi-step process and begins with the study of variationpresent in important economic characters in the particular species.

This rangeof species variation can be assessed for the selection of provenance. Advancedtree improvement programmes are also based on exploitation of the naturalvariations present in improvement trials of the species over a wide range ofgeographical areas, resulting from genotype-environment interactions. If aparticular character is heritable, it will certainly attract the breeders.Variation can also be studied within a provenance for determination of superiorindividuals.Havingsuch a great economic, pharmacological and confectionary value, P.

armeniaca is facing threat as theexploitation levels have reached all time high, because of relentlessanthropogenic pressure. Reports have mentioned about the large scaleexploitation of Prunus armeniaca  (NOVOD, 2007). The species is failing to regeneratein spite of reasonable seed production. (QL. Therefore, in order to counteractthe continuous degradation of this natural asset and augment the naturalregeneration, special attention needs to be given for its propagation andconservation (Tewari and Dhar, 1997). Systematic propagation will go a long wayin achieving the goal, it is desirable to apply simple methods of propagationwhich would be easy to perform in the field and are cost effective. Thus,vegetative propagation is a better option, as it ensures purity of clonal ortrue-to-type propagation of elite tree.

The present investigation was conductedon Prunus armeniaca with thefollowing objectives: 1.     To develop vegetative propagationtechnique for wild apricot through cutting.2.     To study variation in rooting andgrowth behaviour of plants of different sources.3.

     To evaluate the variation in oilcontent in natural populations of wild apricot.  

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