SHOPIAN: Since orchardists use massive quantity of fertilisers and sprays in their orchards which according to experts is “wastage of money”. There are also apprehensions that soil quality is degrading due to the excess use of fertilisers and sprays and that “people follow wrong procedures” while working in orchards.
In order to understand proper use of fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides and other growth nutrients in apple orchards and the required precautions henceforth, Kashmir Reader talked to pathologist Dr Tariq Rasool, senior scientist at Sheri Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST).
Dr Tariq Rasool is performing his duties at different research centres of SKUAST based in Shopian and Pulwama from past six years.
Kashmir Reader: When and what quantity of fertilisers should be mixed with soil around tree?
Dr Tariq Rasool: Two to three weeks before the tree comes out of dormancy, as recommended by our department, orchardists should use 2 to 2.5 kilograms of potash in two phases that is, 1.5 kilograms before dormancy and 1 kilogram in June because in June new buds start to grow, 2 kilograms of Urea and that too 1 kg before tree comes out of dormancy and one kilogram in the month of June and DAP 500-750 grams. The above quantity of fertiliser is required for the tree in age group of 15 years or more.
Kashmir Reader: How to mix fertilisers?
Dr Tariq Rasool: Orchardists must mix DAP with soil while making rings around the trees but not close to the stem and also not too far. They should mix potash and urea while digging the rest of the area which comes under the shade of tree.
Kashmir Reader: What is the importance of other fertilisers (micronutrients) like Boron, Calcium, etc? Are these fertilizers essential?
Dr Tariq Rasool: No, these fertilisers are not compulsory but people use it here and in other countries as well but in developed nations they have modern techniques which we lack here. The departmental recommendation is that these fertilisers should be used after a soil test. If there is deficiency of any nutrient that can be seen only through soil test, and, if orchardists found any kind of problems in trees they can go for soil test before using any nutrient or fertiliser by themselves.
Actually, all these substances are present in soil but sometimes the climatic conditions don’t allow the roots or parts of the plant to generate supply of the same and which results in giving these readymade supplies but that too can be overcome by making sufficient arrangement of moisture around the tree and suggestions from experts.
Kashmir Reader: How does Department of Horticulture see the excess use of fertilisers?
Dr Tariq Rasool: It is alarming now; the quality of soil is decreasing day-by-day with the excess use of fertilisers. If we don’t go for organic manures, the day is not far when the soil will become useless and unsustainable for horticulture. Why should we use anything in trees when there is no need of it?
Kashmir Reader: What about organic manures?
Dr Tariq Rasool: Use of organic manures guarantees sustainable horticulture. People must make pits in orchards where they can decompose organic manures which is very helpful for the horticulture not only in terms of saving nature and trees but by this technique they will save money as well.
Kashmir Reader: Normally people used to have eight to 12 sprays of fungicides, insecticides and pesticides. Is that quantity of sprays good or useless?
Dr Tariq Rasool: The use of massive sprays is also alarming in valley. People used to spray 6000 liters of water in one hectare of land where there is need of only 200 to 300 liters. People must know, washing the tress is harmful – so they not only make the particular spray useless but washes out the older sprays as well. Don’t use excess sprays in orchards when the weather is pleasant. For example the scab fungus is always present on trees but it goes into action only when the leaves remain wet for more than six hours.
This year the weather till date remained dry and orchardists don’t need to spray excessive fungicides. People even can take advantages of dry weather by saving money by not spraying fungicides when the weather remains dry and go for the spray soon after the rains which end for six hours or more than that. They should also keep in mind that fungicide should reach every part of the plant but without washing trees.
Kashmir Reader: Recently during the oil spray, orchardists mixed insecticides with oil. Is that good for trees or just wastage of money?
Dr Tariq Rasool: Let me tell you, horticulture mineral oil (HMO) itself is an insecticide and there is no need to mix both. Some of the insects are important for the trees particularly, in flowering season so don’t kill these by spraying insecticides in or around the flowering season and they can manage the harmful insects after this season.
Kashmir Reader: How do you see spraying Boron on pink bud? Does that help?
Dr Tariq Rasool: University has recommended spraying Boron on pink bud because it helps in fruit set. Actually, all these substances are present there but don’t get functional on time – that is why we recommend spraying it.
Kashmir Reader: What are natural pollinisers, what varieties of apple are considered pollinisers?
Dr Tariq Rasool: Every different variety is a polliniser and orchardists must maintain 20:80 of trees that is 20 trees of pollinisers and 80 of general variety. One of the important things is that there should be synchronisation of flowering season between the trees at same time. Natural pollination is useful and has no side effects.
Kashmir Reader: From past several years, people used to use pollinisers during flowering season, how is that important?
Dr Tariq Rasool: There is no polliniser available anywhere, actually there exists none. What people use in flowering season is called growth regulator and it needs a research, if people found that they got good crops by using that then they can use it but, at the same time there can be side effects as well – that is why this thing needs a thorough research. I have apprehensions regarding the approach of orchardists by using growth nutrients, micro nutrients; if orchardists’ approach remains the same with newly introduced high density then, it will be alarming!