Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Tree of 40 Fruits

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Forty kinds of fruits

It was learned that the orchard would be confiscated. Gardens of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. Syracuse University art professor Sam Van Aken (Sam Van Aken) rushed to see the garden after hearing the news. There are about 250 species of trees in the garden. Most are stone fruit trees, of the genus Prunus. Having grown up on a farm since childhood, van Aken didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity. He decided to lease the garden. After this, his nature-based art work began. Van Aken was a sculptor by profession and learned the art of grafting farm trees from his grandfather. The work of inventing The Tree of 40 Fruits began from there.

Different types of fruits such as mango, jam, kul, guava, litchi etc. are held in bunches on different branches of the same tree? Also think that there are flowers of different colors and different shapes blooming on different branches. Is it even possible in reality? Even if the incident did not happen with our local fruit, it happened in another country, with the fruit of that country. When I heard the news for the first time, the question arose in my mind, was science so advanced that it bred 40 kinds of fruits on one tree. Scientists have gone so far by combining genes? How is this work possible?

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Award-winning sculptor and art professor at Syracuse University, Sam Van Aken. He devoted a large part of his academic life to the pursuit of art. He grew up on the family farm from childhood. A large part of his artistic work was nature. Sam Van Aken built a family agriculture farm in Pennsylvania. An art project turned into a work of art in agriculture that eventually resulted in an antique plant with 40 types of fruit. His dream was that flowers of different colors and shapes would bloom simultaneously on the same tree in spring and summer, and fruits of different varieties would be arranged simultaneously. He used trees as a canvas to create his art.

Professor Sam van Aken brought this change to fruit trees through a very old method, grafting. Grafting method is used to create this art. First, he selects a rooted tree to use as the root tree. The bud of another or more species or cultivars is grafted with a branch of the parent tree with roots or by grafting with multiple branches.

Before starting work, he first made a drawing, on the idea of how to graft onto the original tree. The design of when and how the buds or branches of what species of trees will come together with the main tree. First, he collected information on the flowering times of about 250 varieties of plants at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station. These trees were mainly stone fruit i.e. plums and apricots of the genus Prunus. Later he collected more varieties of stone fruit trees from different places.
Of the forty fruit trees he used only stone fruit and all of them belong to the genus Prunus. The reason behind its use was that stone fruit diversity was high and grafting of one species to another was easy and inter-compatible. Although he found working with cherries a bit difficult. Fruit trees like plums, peaches, apricots, nectarines, almonds etc. were easy to graft to each other.

By grafting he places several cuttings of a tree in the root structure of a tree. When his tree is two years old, he grafts more branches. After a couple of years of care, the new shoots are able to exchange minerals and water with each other. Affinities gradually developed between the branches of different species of trees. Van Aken thus connected 40 fruit tree branches one by one to a tree. Even after planting the trees in the ground, he has to work. Twice a year he visits the trees. They require pruning in spring and grafting in late summer. He did this for three consecutive years and continued grafting until the tree was complete. By doing this, he has produced more than 16 such trees. However, from the beginning of planting trees, it takes him about five years to produce each tree, that is, to grow 40 varieties of fruit on one tree.

As the work of the project progressed – the goals of his work also began to increase. We are losing diversity in fruit production due to industrialization and monoculture. We are losing from nature those fruits that are less in demand in the market, because they are not cultivated enough. He saw it as an opportunity to save all those species. In order to maintain all the endangered species in his nursery, he grafts them with the local species root tree, i.e. the plant that will be made into 40 fruits (The plant with forty fruits). To do this, Van Aken approached local growers and fruit growers and began collecting different varieties of stone fruit (wild and local varieties). These are finally grafted to rootstocks of the local variety. In this way, 40 fruit trees will act as an archive in the history of agriculture, where the same tree will become an exemplary combination of local varieties and wild varieties.

“I see trees as a work of art,” says Sam Van Aken. I wanted the trees to transform naturally. When trees unexpectedly bloom different colors on different branches or when we see them produce different types of fruit on different branches – it will not only change the way people see, it will also change the sense of perception. He said, the main purpose of my work is sculpting by way of grafting. I am now working with over 250 species and I have created a time line of when each branch will flower. By grafting I can determine what flower or what fruit will grow on a plant or what the blossom will look like.

People who have bought this tree report that this one tree has the right amount of different varieties of fruit and they ripen at different times. Fruit ripening continues from July to October. A single tree can produce as many different varieties of fruit as a family needs. Taking just one variety would be more than needed. There are more varieties available in these plants than all the varieties available in the market. People get an opportunity to test different varieties of fruits which are not available in the market. The tree has already been sold to museums, community centers and art collectors. These trees remain beyond the purchasing power of the common man. Each tree costs 30 thousand US dollars. In Bangladeshi taka, the price of which will stand above 35 lakh taka.

He said, “I will continue to create such trees and spread these antique trees with native fruit varieties across the country. This is my dream. “Wherever I plant this tree, with the beauty of its flowers and fruits, and with the technique of creation, this creation will become a sight and an emotional affair for people.”

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