Almost a century ago, Sir Walter Lawrence, then European settlement commissioner wrote Kashmir is the country of fruits, and perhaps no country has greater facilities for horticulture, as indigenous apple, pear, vine, mulberry, walnut, hazel, peach, apricot, raspberry, gooseberry, currant, and strawberry can be obtained without difficulty in most parts of the valley.
To prove it right even today, Government has initiated several steps for tapping the potential of horticulture industry of the State by initiating innovative steps on modern scientific lines to improve plant health and soil health besides, conducting live demonstration awareness camps to collect soil samples from orchards across the State.
Jammu & Kashmir State is considered as the home for world’s famous varieties of fruits, and dry fruits. Horticulture is one of the most dominant sectors and backbone of the State’s economy as the industry is the important source of GDP on account of the fact that against the production of 1.83 MTs in 1972-73 the production has risen to the level of 24.94 LMTs which raised the turnover of Rs. 6000.00 crore approximately during 2015-16.
It provides direct and indirect employment to about 23 lakh people and has the potential for further growth. Keeping in view potential of horticulture in driving states economy, government has declared horticulture a thrust area and is taking number of steps to boost it.
Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister, Radha Mohan Singh during his recent visit to the State said that central Government is committed to revamp agriculture scenario of the state by providing all possible financial support to double the farmers’ income by 2022.
The Union Minister was informed by officials of the concerned department that 27 percent of the farmers have been given Soil Health Cards in the state to check fertility of the soil. He was further informed that the process of soil testing is in process and in coming months all remaining cards will be provided to the farmers.
Singh directed for speeding up the process of soil testing, activating all soil testing lab and collecting sample for the second round of the soil testing.
Terming horticulture as the backbone of State’s economy, Minister for Horticulture, Syed Basharat Bukhari said that the sector has the potential to improve the socio economic profile of Jammu & Kashmir. He said the Government is taking a slew of measures to revamp and revitalize the Horticulture Sector in the State.
The Minter said this while inspecting Soil and Leaf testing laboratory, and Mobile Soil Testing Lab at Directorate of Horticulture Kashmir, where a team of experts at Soil and Leaf Testing Lab gave live demonstrations of various tests conducted in the lab to track health conditions of plantation.
Seeking details about the status of Mobile Soil Health Cards in the State, the Minister was informed that in last one decade Soil and Leaf Analysis Laboratory of Horticulture has analyzed 10743 soil samples across Kashmir Division.
He was informed that in last three years 4182 soil samples have been analyzed here which includes Anantnag: 349, Budgam:1490, Baramulla: 307, Kulgam: 345, Kupwara: 349, Pulwama: 384, Shopian: 292 and Srinagar: 373.
The Minister was further informed that the collection of soil samples have raised from 900 to 1500 annually in last three years and in the year 2016-17 the Lab has analyzed 2730 soil samples collected from 1950 beneficiaries from various district of Kashmir Division.
He was informed that with advancement in technology the Lab analyze ten parameters to check out soil and plant health which include PH, EC, Organic Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Iron, Manganese and Copper and readings are uploaded on Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Government of India web portal where from farmers can directly download Soil Health Card.
The Soil Testing Laboratory was established by the State Department of Horticulture in March, 1995, at Horticulture Complex, Rajbagh, Srinagar, with the aim of providing guidance to the orchardist community on scientific lines, with regard to the basic input of all horticultural activity.
Soil testing is the widely used practice for soil fertility evaluation and fertilizer recommendations. It is equally helpful in understanding its potential and limitations. Soil sample collection is a primary but often neglected step in soil testing and is also a major source of error, representing 80-85 % of the total error, among all the steps. The importance of having a truly representative soil sample can be well realized from the fact that only a minute fraction of the huge soil mass is actually used for analysis in the laboratory. It is, therefore, essential that the sample so collected should be representative of the whole sampled area.
It also provides ample opportunities for sustaining large number of agro industries which generate substantial employment opportunities. With agriculture and allied sectors finding alternate ways of increasing productivity of crops, horticulture as a sub-sector, is a revelation, showing remarkable signs of progress in the state.
The Minister was also informed that the Soil and Leaf Testing Lab has conducted awareness cum live demonstration soil sample collection in and across the Kashmir Division and in coming months all untapped areas will be covered.
Bukhari said that Horticulture industry has the capacity to change the fortunes of not only the farming community but the entire State with its cascading benefits. He said currently horticulture sector of the state produces 6000 metric tons of fruit but it has tendency to produce 40,000 metric tons.
Minister of State for Horticulture, Priya Sethi said that the government is committed to achieve the objectives to enhance the production and productivity of quality horticulture produce in the State and with the adoption of high density plants the economic returns of farmers as well as state are sure to shoot up.
She said that the department is taking certain measures to draw forward-looking roadmaps through perspective planning for improving quality and production of Horticulture crops by integrated implementation of viable, eco-friendly, validated and refined technologies, besides preparing a visionary document in the form of a Horticulture Policy for next 30 years.