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Thursday, October 05, 2023
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Imported root stocks bring cheer to apple growers in Kashmir

Delhi: Salimullah Bhat, an apple farmer in the Pampore district of the picturesque Kashmir valley had little hope from his two hectors of farm land. It gave him low yield, barely enough to feed his family.

In 2019, he decided to take the help of the horticulture department to go for a new harvest, a decision that turned in his favour. Bhat was suggested to go for an apple nursery with imported root stocks from the Netherlands.  He went for it and since then he hasn’t looked back in these two years. Bhat produced 18,000 saplings fetching him a neat Rs 11 lakh.

Luck has smiled on hundreds of farmers like him in the valley. Switching over to imported root stocks has brought changes in the livelihood of farmers in South Kashmir in Shopian, Pulwama and Kulga, to name a few.

Imported varieties of root stocks mostly from the Netherlands and Italy have become a rage among the farming community giving the high yield and better quality. Traditional farming in the region, not surprising then, is seemingly giving way to the high-density plantation of the imported varieties. What has made the proposition more enticing to the farmers is the sharp reduction in the waiting period for the plants to bear fruits – from as long as seven years to only two years.

Altaf Ahmed Lone from the Pattan area took to high-density farming in 2019, planting several varieties of apple and within two years he made Rs 4 lakh growing 5 tonnes of quality apple. According to a report in Network 18, Ahmed is expecting his revenue to double as the production is set to reach 8.5 metric tonnes by this year-end.

In 2015, Nisar Ahmed Bhat of trai set up a nursery to make a kill out of the increasing demand for root stocks. In 2020 and 2021, his nursery produced 45,000 and 50,000 plants respectively, fetching him a revenue of 30 lakh and 35 lakh in these subsequent years.

The government of the union territory has now come out with a scheme christened Modified High-Density Plantation, under which the farmers can avail root stocks at subsidized rates with easy loans and spend a negligible amount on weeds and pesticides.

According to the network 18 report, the horticulture department in J&K will cover 5,500 hectors of land to encourage farmers to go for high-density apple plantations. The high point of this type of plantation is that it can grow 12 times more plants in an earmarked area.

The mood remains upbeat. The apple industry in the union territory is estimated to be around Rs 8000 crore. It exports about 20 lakh metric tonnes of apple every year and accounts for 75 per cent of all apple production in the country. 

About root stocks:

Apple trees are not grown on their roots but propagated on root stocks that control the tree. Dwarfing rootstocks control wood production in the tree, directing its energy into fruit production. By choosing the rootstocks for your needs and soil conditions, you can preselect, to a considerable extent, the size of your orchard trees at maturity. This choice, in itself, can save a great deal of labour in pruning and picking, and time waiting for your trees to start cropping.

Dwarf trees grow apples where most, if not all, of the fruit, can be picked without ladders. To improve efficiency in the picking operation and to increase yield per hectare, dwarf to semi-dwarf trees are planted at close intervals in the rows. This type of high-density planting provides a continuous tree wall of bearing surface to be sprayed and picked, thus reducing the waste of time and materials. (Source: Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affair, Ontario)

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