Local delicacy Yongchak 'drying and dying' in North East 

Yongchak (Parkia speciosa) is a very popular legume in India and Southeast Asia. ( Photo: Hariadhi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)
Yongchak (Parkia speciosa) is a very popular legume in India and Southeast Asia. ( Photo: Hariadhi, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons)

•    Manipur Governor calls for scientific, biotechnological interventions
•    Scientists, Agri Dept officials deliberate ways to resuscitate ‘dying’ tree bean.
•    Cause for wide-spread drying of Yongchak trees identified 

Newmai News Network
Imphal | January 16

Manipur Governor Dr Najma Heptulla on Saturday called for exploring ways prevent the extinction of tree bean, locally known as Yongchak, one of the most popular vegetables in Manipur.

Yongchak tree, a popular legume in India and Southeast Asia, is facing possible extinction in the North East region, informed proceedings from a seminar ‘Dying of tree bean (Yongchak) in Manipur: Remedies and steps towards conservation.’

Addressing at the inaugural function of a one-day national seminar virtually, the Governor stressed on the urgent need for scientific and biotechnological interventions to save the legume tree.

“I am fully confident that during the seminar, all the scientists and experts from various parts of the country will certainly explore ways and means and exchange views to save this tree bean from extinction,” she said.

Popular delicacy 

Yongchak (Parkia speciosa), which grows on trees that can reach over thirty meters in height, is a very popular legume in India and Southeast Asia. 

It grows rampantly in the wild and has a unique smell, thus earning the nickname “stinky bean.” 

In Manipur, Yongchak is traditionally used by the locals for food, medicine and fodder.

The pod is consumed as vegetable, salad and chutney in all its developmental stages starting from the green tender pods to the matured black seeds either fresh or sun-dried for future use during off season. 

However, unfortunately during the last decade, many cases of death of tree bean trees have been observed in the region due to the die-back symptoms seriously affecting socio-economic situation of the growers, Dr Heptulla further observed.

“Thus, there is an urgent need for scientific and biotechnological interventions for strategizing a short term and long term plans for the socio-economic impact, propagation and sustainable production of this important tree both in the hills and the plains of the state,” she said.

Gradual ‘drying and dying’ of trees
The Governor said that by the winter, piles and piles of Yongchak used to be stacked up high at the markets and people used to be seen carrying home bunches of the crop considered as a part of the most valuable vegetables in the past. 

"Nevertheless, the situation has now become just the opposite and the cost of this bean has now sky rocketed and poor people are unable to afford it,” she said. 

During the last three or four years, even at this time of the year, a majority of the indigenous people have not had the taste of Yongchak merely because of two reasons, the Governor said - marked reduction in the production and exorbitantly high prices beyond the means of common person.

I was informed that most of the Yongchak trees grown in the hill areas have already dried and died and the rest are also drying, she said.

"Now that almost all the Yongchak trees are gradually drying and dying, the growers are really disappointed. Since Yongchak production in the hill areas has gone down so much, the same is on the brink of non-availability in the markets of the valley,” she added.

Cure on horizon? 

In this connection, Dr Heptulla expressed optimism that scientists and experts of the College of Agriculture, Central Agricultural University (CAU) along with the Manipur Agriculture department have already taken up research and investigations into the cause of the wide-spread drying of the Yongchak trees.

 "They have concluded that the trees are being gradually killed by insects. The efforts made by the scientists and experts to save this rare species from extinction are commendable and praiseworthy", she said. 

Mention may be made that after the scientists of the CAU have detected that certain insects eat up the trunk of the Yongchak trees and certain other insects bore holes in the trunk, the state Agriculture department has already taken up various steps to save the Yongchak trees.

The seminar was jointly organised by Central Agricultural University, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Manipur Organic Mission Agency and Apunba Imagi Machasing.