Shopian: Heerpora village famous for producing quality potato seeds in Kashmir valley is now growing Himachal potatoes for seed multiplication after its traditional variety vanished after disease outbreak years ago.
Situated along the Mughal Road in Shopian the village now grows the Kufri Jyoti, potato variety from neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh that has almost replaced the famous Heerpora- Red potatoes variety that once was synonymous with this village.
Bashir Ahmad Seikh whose family has been cultivating these potatoes at this village for more than a century told Kashmir Reader that mysterious potato disease that appeared two decades ago wiped their traditional crop.
Growers say that it was this decline in quality and yields that later led growers to switch to producing the Himachal potato seed.
“We experimented with many varieties but Kufri Joyti adopted well in our conditions,” said Bashir.
The area has once again retained its place for being the highest produced of the potato seed in Kashmir and according to growers the seed output could be roughly above 35 MT.
Almost all the families who own land are into potato cultivation and this time around they sell their seeds to dealers across valley.
Ahmad says that this is time we are approached by the dealers from across the valley to take the seeds for plantation.
Potatoes are mostly grown from seed potatoes – and these tubers are specifically grown in to be disease free and provide consistent and healthy plants.
The seed cultivation according to one the grower Manzoor Ahmad Matu has always remained better because of the climatic conditions of Heerpora.
“Being situated at a higher altitude and experiencing a harsh winters, we produce seed that is almost disease free and we store them here in winters this maintains the quality,” he said.
He said that the Agricultural department at times also gives different varieties for seed production, but if the variety fails there is loss to the grower, therefore many now stick to the practice of producing Kufri Jyoti, seed.
However for Manzoor there was no effort to save the traditional Red potato of Hirpora.
The strategic Mughal road according to locals could also have played a role in this cultivation.
Locals said that potato cultivation was an outcome of their association with outer world and many who went as porters brought potatoes that adopted well to this area, but brought prosperity.
Apart from potato, meant for cultivating fresh crops the local population also consumes it and these are even exchanged for other vegetables by villagers.
Sold at Rs 5000 per quintal, the seed according to growers can produce 10- 12 quintals of crop.
Unlike sowing of potatoes that has started across Kashmir valley, Heerpora starts sowing in May.