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Persimmon Cultivation: A cash crop to explore in J&K

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Persimmon Cultivation in J&K

For the past many years, Jammu and Kashmir has put a lot of focus on fruit cultivation. However, the experts believe that all the eggs should not be put in a single basket and there is a need to look beyond apple cultivation. The diversification in various cash crops must become the norm for the orchardists. Naveed Hamid writes about the possibilities and opportunities of persimmon cultivation in J&K. 

Persimmon Cultivation in J&KPersimmon – locally known as Amlok or Japani Phal – is a fruit that is native to China, whereas wild species found in the Western Himalaya (D. lotus) is a Caucasian native that was introduced by Europeans in 1921 in the Kullu valley of Himachal Pradesh and is now cultivated in Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir, and parts of Tamil Nadu.

It is a monoecious tree that grows to a height of 5-15 metres. The trees are deciduous, and their dormancy lasts until mid-February. Dormant trees can withstand temperatures as low as -150 degrees Celsius. Fruit maturation is more difficult for non-astringent cultivars than for astringent cultivars. Flowering begins in mid-March and lasts until the second fortnight of April. Flat-globose, conical globose fruits ripen in September-October and are orange, reddish-orange, and orangish-red in colour. The flesh is orange in colour and has a fibrous pulpy texture. In the case of astringent types, the fruits are sweet when completely ripened, whereas non-astringent types can be eaten raw like an apple. At room temperature, non-astringent types have a storage life of roughly 15-20 days compared to astringent ones.

Cultural practices

Persimmon thrives in well-drained light soils with decent subsoil including some clay and a pH range of 5.8 to 6.5, and may be cultivated in a wide range of subtropical and sub temperate climates. It can be reproduced by grafting or budding onto wild persimmon rootstocks. Tall cultivars are planted in autumn in well-prepared trenches at a distance of 6 x 6 m.

Persimmon as a fruit of Business for farmers

Persimmon Cultivation in J&KThe best places to cultivate Persimmon are those where apples can be cultivated.

The tree starts bearing fruits in 4-5 years and has an average production by the end of 10 years. The same time is required for the cultivation of apples too. Persimmon tolerates high winters and harsh weather. While some of the areas in Kashmir have limitations of weather, Persimmon is one of the few fruits which can counter this problem.

Economics of Persimmon fruit

Most farmers cultivating apples already know the decline in the price of apples in the country. In Himachal Pradesh alone Solan, Hamirpur, Sirmour, Kullu, Mandi,  Kangra districts have approximately 3000 Tonnes per year in the production of Persimmon.

The fruit, though costs Rs 150-300 during off-seasons have a nominal price of Rs 100 per kilo in retail during seasons. Though the price in Delhi and Mumbai are high for apples, the actual price farmers get is a lot less than what we buy for. Persimmon, due to its demand and lack of availability, commands a much higher price. A price of Rs 120 is nominal for good quality persimmon when obtained from a farmer.

Rootstock Startup Business Opportunity

Persimmon is started from seed or the Indian persimmon plant is the rootstock used for best results for starting persimmon trees in India. The rootstocks are either budded or grafted when the rootstock is ready. Chip budding is done in August and grafting is done in April. Mother plants that need to be grafted should be selected with care.

Pests are minimal in persimmon and the most common problems include thrips, whitefly and mites.

Fruit Harvesting

From the first fruit setting to maturity, it takes two and a half months. Harvest is done when the fruits are tender and ripe, often reddish in colour. Fruits that are not soft will usually be astringent and not suitable for consumption. Some non-astringent varieties are excellent even when not completely ripe. The fruits are very soft and can be scooped off with a spoon when fully ripe. They are chalky in texture when they are not ripe and the non-astringent varieties, though consumable, do not develop the desired taste unless tender.

The fruits have a good shelf life of up to two months if stored in a temperature between 0-2 degrees Celsius. They can also be dried in shade with proper ventilation. Traditionally, the persimmon fruit is stringed by the pedicel and hung in a well-ventilated room until the water content is removed.

Benefits of Persimmon

The persimmon is a fruit that comes from certain trees in the genus Diospyros. Like the tomato, it is technically a berry but rarely considered one.

Persimmons are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, support the immune system and protect against heart disease.

  • Persimmons are also high in soluble dietary fibre, which slows the digestion of carbohydrates, preventing spikes in blood sugar.
  • Persimmons can help keep arteries clear and reduce the risk of heart disease. Atherosclerosis refers to the hardening and narrowing of arteries, and one study found persimmons rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, and minerals that are part of an antiatherosclerosis diet.
  • Its tannin-rich fibre has proven particularly effective in treating high cholesterol.
  • Persimmons can help in keeping eyes healthy. In addition, persimmon peel is rich in lutein, which is known to help protect against eye disease.

Diabetes Prevention and Reduced Risk of Complications

The peel of persimmon contains flavonoids that have proven to have antidiabetic and antioxidant properties. They protect against the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), harmful compounds that form when protein or fat combines with sugar in the blood. AGEs have been linked to both the onset of diabetes and to long-term health complications resulting from the disease.

Agri-Startup Business Opportunity

Agriculture is the world’s oldest economic sector, and it provides a primary source of income for roughly 58 percent of India’s population. Things began to change in India when the startup age began. Startups have surely contributed to the agricultural sector’s growth and transformation.

Agriculture has become a source of distraction, with agri-startups offering solutions to assist farmers in the J&K in enhancing their productivity and living. Agricultural development in Jammu and Kashmir is critical for raising agricultural-dependent people’s incomes and expanding the non-agricultural economy. With about 60% of rural Indian households relying on agriculture, India holds the record for the world’s second-largest agricultural land, presenting an enormous opportunity for agricultural startups.

This fruit will be an alternate crop for farmers of Jammu and Kashmir to tap on for their higher return and effectively shift in their farming system.

Young Budding Agripreneurs can grab the opportunity of creating a system for growing a new fruit crop in Jammu and Kashmir by using various agribusiness models. It will provide new business opportunities in establishing rootstock units and Primary Processing Units to fetch the high return out of this farming.

Naveed Hamid is BDA at Innovation & Entrepreneurship Cell, SKUAST-Kashmir. You can reach him at [email protected] 

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Chemical Pesticides and Environment Sustainability

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Chemical Pesticides and Environment Sustainability

Need for alternative pest control methods, organic farming

Raheeba Tun Nisa

Naveed Hamid

Chemical pesticides are frequently used to protect plants, animals, livestock, and crops from pests and diseases. In India, estimated annual production losses due to pests are as high as US$ 36 billion. The use of pesticides has significantly increased and improved global food production.

Pesticides are used by farmers, consumers, and businesses to stop the spread of disease and crop destruction. In order to safeguard the world’s food supply, pesticides assist the agricultural community in managing exotic weeds, diseases, and insects.

All types of pesticides used in the country, including those imported from other nations, are governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the United States. When seeking to market their products, pesticide manufacturers must comply with extremely strict regulations set forth by the EPA. The amount of pesticide residue reported on food products ingested by humans or animals, such as livestock feed, is regulated by the EPA.

However, there is still a flaw in the system that causes environmental chaos, and we are unable to stop the devastation of our ecosystem.

Impact of pesticides on environment and SDG goals

Pesticides however might have a negative effect on both aquatic and terrestrial species. Their extended and repeated use causes bioaccumulation. It is possible for pesticides to spread from the application site to distant surroundings and non-target creatures. Even at low concentrations, water contaminated with pesticides poses a major threat to the environment. Pesticide residues can reach humans through contaminated food and water, non-target drift, or application.

Exposure to pesticides can have a variety of negative neurological health impacts, including impaired coordination, memory, and vision. The immune system is also harmed by prolonged pesticide exposure. An increase in neurological conditions, including brain tumours, has been attributed to excessive pesticide use in Kashmir.

Different soil microorganisms are necessary for various plant functions yet using pesticides may limit the soil microflora. We know a lot of beneficial microorganisms are present on the plant surface (Phyllosphere) as well as in the root zone (rhizosphere), indiscriminate use of pesticide drastically decrease their population.

Numerous herbicides have been shown to be harmful to mycorrhizal fungi, increase plant susceptibility to diseases, impair seed quality, and have indirect effects on bird populations. SDG target by 2020 is to minimize the negative effects on human health and the environment by achieving the environmentally sound management of chemicals and their wastes throughout their life cycles, in compliance with accepted international frameworks, and greatly reducing their release to air, water, and soil.

Pesticides must be used in accordance with the standards established by national and international law, with better safety precautions and less harmful formulations. Farmers should be made aware of the need to avoid using harmful pesticides.

Strategies to minimize the usage of chemicals

In the future, it will be possible to combine the use of chemical pesticides with natural remedies to eradicate pests and insects in a more long-lasting manner. The best alternatives to pesticides are agronomical approaches, biological control, organic farming, integrated pest management, and the use of resistant varieties.

Current disease management approaches rely primarily on synthetic pesticides, but growing awareness of these chemicals’ detrimental effects on the environment and human health has prompted us to seek out more effective, less or non-toxic alternatives.

One such alternative is biological control of plant diseases that could be a viable alternative to expensive chemical fungitoxicants, which not only harm the environment but also allow for the development of resistant pathogenic strains. The biocontrol agents either soil-derived or epiphytes or endophytes (bioagents acquired from phyllosphere) are having the innate potential of suppressing the diseases.

It may be effective to use endophytes and epiphytes that are strongly antagonistic to this pathogen to tackle the disease. In the future, biological control on aerial plant surfaces will be successful not only because of its efficiency but also because of its low cost compared to traditional pesticides and the absence of harmful side effects from the organisms used, such as mammalian toxicity.

Other advantages of biological control over chemical control might include the less long-term environmental impact from the use of persistent pesticides and the lack of chemical residues on edible components of the crop. Several commercial microorganism-based products have been created and are beginning to gain popularity in the market. However, due to biocontrol action’s diversity and inconsistency, large-scale usage is still limited. In some circumstances, this might be due to the biocontrol agents’ susceptibility to environmental impacts.

There are several ways to overcome biocontrol limitations and increase its performance. One such way is a combination of biocontrol agents with fungicides. Compatibility of any bioagent with fungicides is a key to developing an efficient disease management module vis-à-vis disease control, resistance management, environmental safety and economy.

Need to boost and promote natural farming startups

From 2010-2011, the organic market in India witnessed considerable growth. According to a TechSci Research report, ‘India Organic Food Market By Product Type, Competition Forecast and Opportunities, 2011 – 2021’, India’s organic food market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of over 25% during 2016-2021. With the rising environmental and health problems, more and more people are becoming cautious of the harmful effects of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and other artificial chemicals used for food production. There is growing consensus among people about the benefits of using Organic products. This unique rise in demand has resulted in creating an opportunity for many to come up with great and novel ideas in the shape of startups with unique business models, aimed at solving this modern-day crisis.

The authors are associated with SKUAST-K, Shalimar 

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Age-old practice of grape cultivation in Kashmir needs revival

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grape cultivation in Kashmir

Syed Aamir Sharief Qadri         

Grape cultivation in Kashmir! Harud, the harvesting season of Kashmir starts from mid-September to mid-November. During this period people are busy cutting paddy, picking fruits, unearthing underground veggies, etc. These days people harvest grapes to keep a share and give away the rest to neighbours, relatives and friends. You should know this except for a few areas of Kashmir grapes are not grown for commercial purposes.

The soil and climate have always been suitable for the progress of horticulture in Kashmir. Viticulture or winegrowing is the cultivation and harvesting of grapes. In old days Kashmir was known for its luscious grapes. Grapes – Dach in Kashmiri, is a highly nutritious fleshy fruit with numerous health benefits. It grows in bunches.

Throughout Kashmir’s history, the ruling dynasties and monarchs from time to time took interest in the cultivation of grapes. But today it has entered the dark phase of history. Neither the government nor the people take serious note to revive this age-old practice. The grape plant is found almost in the home garden of every household in Kashmir still, people don’t pay attention to cultivating it extensively.

The vale of vineyards

The majority of historians agree with the fact that Kashmir produced many varieties of fruit in abundance from the ages. The kings, nobles, merchants and religious saints together planted every kind of tree whether fruit-bearing or shady tree to promote the garden culture of Kashmir. Fruit cultivation especially grape cultivation in Kashmir has been practised since ancient times. We have a glimpse of the aristocratic asrama life of the Saiva gurus standing on a mandapa with a goblet full of wine in the middle of the vineyard (MA Wani, Islam in Kashmir). Many nobles had their fruit gardens. Raja Amar Singh and Diwan Amar Nath during the Dogra period maintained their vineyards.

Grape cultivation in Kashmir

Photo: Suliman Saith

Kalhana writes, Grapes”which were scarce even in heaven were common in Kashmir”. There is a reference to grape, grapevine, and vineyards in many ancient chronicles of Kashmir. While Kalhana’s Rajatarangini mentions ‘The town of Martanda (present-day Matan) was swelling with grapes during king Lalitadityas time’, Huen Tsang who visited Kashmir in the seventh century CE makes it clear that Kashmir produced abundant fruits and flowers (Samuel Beal, Si- Yu- Ki). The 11th-century Kashmiri poet Bilhana while praising the beauties of his homeland in his poetic verses mentioned growing of grapes in abundance in Kashmir.

One side of it yields saffron,

lovely by nature,

the other grapes, pale as the sweet cane

that grows alongside the Sarayu

(Bilhaṇa,  Vikramāṅkadevacarita; trans. Whitney Cox)

Fruit formed a regular article of diet. Among the principal fruits that were eaten during medieval times pears, cherries, plums, apricots, grapes, apples, and peaches were found in abundance. An excerpt from the book- Kashmir Under The Sultans,  “Fruits were grown in such abundance that they were rarely bought or sold. The owner of a garden and the man who had no garden were all alike, for the gardens had no walls, and no one was prevented from picking the fruits.” This claim is supported by medieval records like Tarikh-e- Rushdi and Tarikh-e-Firishta. Different kinds of drinks were made from fresh fruits among them Sharbat Angoor was quite famous. The grapes were also used in making jams (murabbha).

Grapes were cultivated all over Kashmir, and vineyards were found at every nook and corner of the valley. The vines were allowed to grow on the poplars and mulberry trees (Mutamad Khan, Iqbal Nama Jahangiri). Since the local grapes were not of superior quality, Akbar introduced new varieties like Sahibi, Kishmishi, etc. (Jahangir, Tuzuk-i- Jahangiri). Bagh-e-Dilawar Khan was a famous site for vine culture and there were more than 18 varieties raised in this orchard (Moorcraft & Trebeck, Travels in the Himalayan Provinces of Ladakh and Kashmir). Superior varieties were cultivated in Lar and Repora (Hassan Shah, Tarikh-i- Kashmir).

Grape cultivation in Kashmir

Photo: Suliman Saith

While Abul Fazl praises some fruits and considered them better than the tropical fruits of the plains of India he held an adverse opinion about grapes. He said,  “though grapes were in plenty, finer qualities were rare”. This view is supported by Bernier when he says “with the introduction of better grafts from foreign countries and by paying more attention to planting and soil, the Kashmir fruit would attain the same degree of perfection as the French”.

The quality of indigenous grapes was improved side by side. In 1590 CE Muhammad Quli Ifshar, the Daroga of the gardens, first of all, grafted Kashmir fruit trees with peaches brought from Kabul. The experiment succeeded and grafting has since then been widely practised. Zafar Khan Ahsan the governor under Shah Jahan also improved the quality and taste of the cherry, plum, peach, and grapes by using better grafts and planting imported saplings from Persia and Kabul (PNK Bamzai, Culture and Political History of Kashmir, Vol 2).

During the Sikh and Dogra periods, thousands of acres were covered with vines in full bearing. Moorcraft proclaimed, “There are said to be eighteen or twenty varieties of grapes in Kashmir of which four were of foreign introduction. These are the Sahibi, of an oblong shape and red colour; the Maska, round and yellowish-white; the Hoseini, of the same colour but long; and the Kishmish, yellowish-white or green, round and seedless; this last is small but the other three are large, the Sahibi sometimes measuring four inches in its largest circumference. They are all thin-skinned, and grow in considerable bunches; those of the Maska is not infrequently of the weight of five or six pounds. The Sahibi and Maska are both fine table- grapes; wine and raisins might be made from the other two. These sorts are usually cultivated on high horizontal trellises of wood. The indigenous vines are generally planted at the foot of poplar and run up to the height of fifty or sixty feet, bearing an abundance of fruit. The grapes are commonly thick-skinned and rather rough and astringent, but juicy”. There are six varieties of grapes mentioned in ‘A Gazetteer of Kashmir’ by CE Bates which was published in 1873.

Grapes in market

The difficulty of terrain and transportation discouraged fruit growers from exporting grapes from Kashmir. Besides, the fast perishing nature of pulpy fruits that lost their taste and texture within weeks of harvest did not attract the merchant class. These delicate fruits were too fragile to be transported from one place to another. Due to the long journey, they used to spoil before reaching the market. However, with the modern modes of transport laden with CAS (Controlled Atmospheric Storage) and better connectivity this all can change now.

We don’t have enough sources to know about the export of fruits from Kashmir. But a few references are there to make us believe that grapes were exported from the beginning though not on large scale but in limited quantities. Abul Fazl in his work Ain-i-Akbari mentions that “Kashmiris bring grapes on their backs in long baskets.” Though not a primary article of trade fresh fruits and dried raisins in limited quantities were included in the export list (Jahangir, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri). It means both grapes and dried raisins were in demand in mainland India during Mughal Period.

Niccolo Munucci an Italian traveller mentions large quantities of vegetables and fruit were exported to the Indian market. During the 17th century, the fruit merchants reached as far as south India with the fruits (Kalimatu Taibat, Ed. Inayatullah Khan). Grapes used to sell at 108 dams a maund in Mughal times (Abul Falz, Ain-e-Akbari).

Sind Valley: The heaven of delicious grapes

Grape cultivation in Kashmir

Photo: Suliman Saith

Sind valley in past as well as in the present day is known for its finest grapes. Walter R. Lawrence in his famous book The Valley Of Kashmir mentioned a few vineyards at the mouth of the Sind valley. He has also praised the white and red grapes of the state vineyard at Raipur during Dogra Period in Kashmir. Thakur Janak Singh the military commander had built a bungalow there known as Bungli Bagh which is now in ruins. This is the present-day Repora village located in Lar block in central Kashmir’s district Ganderbal- The grape town of Kashmir. For many centuries now Sind valley is known for its fresh delicious and quality grapes.

From vine to wine

Grapes were particularly valued as a fruit and were also used in brewing wine. Drinking wine seems to have been quite popular since the ancient period. The wine and grapes in Kashmir were local products. The tantric ritual required the use of liquor, hence as a prestigious item of consumption, Kashmir preserved its wine culture. Kalhana says, “both men and women were addicted to drinking”. The wine, cooled and perfumed with flowers, was appreciated as a delicious drink. It is written in Nilmatpurana that wine has been recommended, especially on ceremonial occasions.

There are many references which show that making and drinking wine was not prohibited during the Sultanate period, even though it was strongly disapproved by large section of the society. Most of the Sultans and their nobles imbibed liquor regularly (Jonaraja, Dvitiya Rajatarangini). Zainul Abidin took it in moderation, but Haider Shah was a confirmed drunkard and, as a result, neglected his state duties. Hasan Shah was in the habit of arranging drinking parties in his palace or in the boats on the Jehlum, and used to get drunk on these occasions (Srivara, Jaina Rajatarangini).

Locally the liquor was called ‘mas’ (Jahangir, Tuzuk-i- Jahangiri). Soft liquor of various types was used by all (Mohammad Sadiq Kumbu, Amal-i-Salih). It was distilled from grapes, barley, rice and mulberries (Mutamad Khan, Iqbal Nama Jahangiri). On festive occasions, there was free consumption of liquor by the participants. Anguri and Qandi were the cherished drinks of singers (Nath Pandith, Gulshan-i- Dastur). But there appears to have been a substantial decrease in liquor consumption during the later half of the 17th century (Majid Mattoo, Kashmir Under The Mughals).

Although the Islamization of Kashmir took many centuries, this tradition gradually discontinued among people but was kept alive by the ruling class. For a short period, Afghans stopped making wine but the tradition was later restarted by the Sikhs Rulers.

The consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Sikhism, but drinking culture is often associated with Punjabi culture. Moorcraft writes: “After harvesting grapes in October, they were kept in shallow earthen vessels till spring, then they were applied to the fabrication of wine, vinegar and brandy. The manufacture is ill-conducted, and the liquor is kept in bottles, which are stopped only with plugs of wood, twisted bark, or paper. No wonder therefore that the beverage is indifferent, but such as it is, it is sufficiently good to show that, with proper treatment and care, the wines of Kashmir might be made to rival many of those of Europe.”

Grape cultivation in Kashmir

Photo: Suliman Saith

Dogra Rulers took great interest by investing large amounts to boost this industry. On the shore of Dal Lake, Dogra rulers occupied 389 acres of land for vine cultivation. The vines were introduced from the Bordeaux district (the famed wine-growing region in France) in Maharaja Ranbir Singh’s time. To make as good as Medoc and Barsac varieties of wine high-priced distillery plant was imported and set up at Gupkar on Dal Lake. Two Italians, named Signor Benvenuti and Signor Bassi, were employed to look after vineyards and wine factories (Walter R. Lawrence, The valley of Kashmir).

Why there is a need to revive grape cultivation in Kashmir

Kashmir has great potential to evolve as a booming grape cultivation hub. It is high time to reintroduce this crop for some good reasons:

First, The growth of horticulture with the revival of grape cultivation in Kashmir will immensely contribute to J&K’s economy.

Second, it will play its role to absorb a large number of unemployed youth thus reducing the unemployment rate which is at an all-time high in the state.

Third, if introduced in economically backward districts of Kashmir it will help poverty-stricken to uplift their life.

Forth, If the vale of Kashmir once again became a centre of viticulture then entrepreneurship in this field will surely flourish. The bumper crop will attract investors to apply new ideas with the latest techniques.

A poet and writer, the author has done his MA in History from the University of Kashmir and MPhil from Punjabi University, Patiala. Presently, he is a freelance columnist. You can contact him at [email protected]

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Insight into Kashmir’s walnut harvesting

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Kashmir's walnut harvesting

Text by Syed Jesarat

Pictures by Suliman Saith

As Kashmir’s walnut harvesting season is at its peak, people have begun picking and processing the valley’s famed dry fruit. Walnut is among the most sought-after dry fruits produced in Kashmir.  Walnut harvesting is a labour-intensive and occasionally dangerous process that has claimed many lives in Kashmir.
Kashmir's walnut harvesting
Traditionally walnuts in Kashmir are grown without the use of chemical fertilizers or sprays. Therefore, we can call them organically produced. In the valley, walnuts are mostly of three types: Wonth, Kagazi and Burzul.
 
Three steps complete the walnut processing after they are picked: hulling, drying and storage.
Process of Hulling: As the walnuts grow on the tree, the dry outer covering that is placed outside of the shell is removed through hulling process.
Kashmir's walnut harvesting
Process of Drying: In the second stage, walnuts are dried on the open surface until the desired moisture content is reached.

Process of storage: During the final stage, walnuts are stored for further use. Walnuts are used in many dishes and cosmetics.

Kashmir's walnut harvesting

 

Walnut is one of the key produces of Jammu and Kashmir which provides livelihood to thousands of families. About 2.66 lakh metric tonnes of walnuts are produced on 89,000 hectares of land in Jammu and Kashmir, the highest in the states and UTs in the country. Overall production is 2.47 tonnes per hectare, and J&K has been designated an Agri-Export Zone for walnuts because of its high productivity.  As a result, Kashmir is the largest walnut supplier in India.

Walnut growing in Kashmir has enormous potential for development as an industry because of the variety of walnuts present in Kashmir, their health benefits, and their usage in food.

Kashmir's walnut harvesting

 

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