Seabuckthorn: A multipurpose shrubs species in Ladakh cold desert
Mohit Husain, Jagdeesh Prasad Rathore, Aatifa Rasool, Aafaq A Parrey, Dinesh Kumar Vishwakarma and Kolagani Mahendar
Seabuckthorn is a perennial, woody, spinescent, dioecious, nitrogen fixing (non-leguminous), actinorhizal, wind pollinated plant. It bears yellow or orange-red berries, referred to as ‘Leh berry”, “Wonder berry” or “Ladakh gold”. The plant is growing wild in the cold and dry regions of Indian Himalayas mainly in Ladakh (J&K), Lahaul- Spiti and Kinnaur (HP), Kumaon Garhwal (Uttarakhand) and Sikkim/Arunachal Pradesh in the North-East region. The ripe fruits of Seabuckthorn are a rich source of vitamins (A, B, C, K, and E) with antioxidant and anti-stress properties. Seabuckthorn can act as a prominent afforestation species of Cold desert due to its property of having physiological mechanisms to grow under environmental stress. The other properties which advocate the potential of Seabuckthorn as an afforestation plant in Ladakh are cold-resistance, drought-tolerance, resistance to salty and alkaline soils and resistance to strong winds. Seabuckthorn can withstand extreme temperature from -43 °C to +40 °C. It can be easily propagated through seeds and cuttings so bulk of planting material can be produced easily which acts as the primary requirement for afforestation. Seabuckthorn fix 180 kg of nitrogen/ha/year which generally improves soil fertility. SBT berry which used to get Rs. 8.0 per kg in the year 2001 is being sold for Rs. 50.0 per kg in 2016. It is estimated that the area under pure SBT is 7184 ha while the area under mixed SBT is 2083 ha in Ladakh. In Nubra valley the shrub is estimated to be growing in 2876 ha. Ladakh remains the major site for a natural SBT resource with over 70 per cent of the total area (13,000 ha) under SBT in the country.