Governor inaugurates first harvest at SKUAST orchard, scientists promise 5-fold increase in production
SRINAGAR: Governor NN Vohra on Sunday inaugurated the first harvest of the ‘High Density Plantation of Apples’ scheme at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology-K (SKUAST-K) here at Shalimar.
The High Density Plantation scheme was put into action in February 2017, inaugurated by then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. The scheme was conceived in 2008-2009. About one-hundred hectares involving some 300 farmers have been covered under the scheme already.
According to university officials, Sunday’s event was organised to give confidence to fruit growers to use the High Density Plants.
“We wanted to show the growers that the produce would be high without compromising the quality, that too within a year and a half,” said Prof MY Zargar, Director Research at SKUAST-K.
“The role of the university is to evaluate foreign varieties so that the best among them could be given to farmers,” Prof Zargar said.
Governor Vohra, who is Chancellor of the university, visited the varsity orchards and inaugurated the harvest process by plucking some apples.
Later, in his address, the Governor lauded the initiatives of Prof Nazeer Ahmed, Vice Chancellor, and his colleagues in the Horticulture Faculty for successfully raising an attractive High Density Apple orchard in the university campus.
“The fruits are beautiful and the production is huge. When the produce will hit the market, people will ask where the fruit came from,” Vohra said.
The Governor said that adoption of high-density species would raise crop production by nearly 5 times in a period of 4-5 years. He advised the Vice Chancellor to make a documentary on all aspects of High Density Apple cultivation and have it screened in apple growing areas to educate the growers.
The Governor said that increase in production will involve many challenges, like sampling and grading of fruit, proper packaging, storage in controlled climate premises, proper transportation, and decision regarding timing of marketing the fruit.
“In coming years when our production will grow, there will be profit but there would be problems as well. For that we need to do advance planning so that when the fruit comes to the mandi (wholesale market), then we know where to take it,” Vohra said.
The Governor suggested that drip irrigation used in this process should be adopted by the horticulture department in collaboration with the university.
Advisor to the Governor, Khurshid Ganai, urged fruit growers to adopt new techniques for raising production. Assuring the fruit growers of the government’s full support, Ganai said that they will be taken on board before the proposed State Horticulture Policy is finalised.
He said that dry fruits like walnut and almond would not be forgotten in the new policy.
“We hope that the growers will welcome this initiative and the technology would reach from the lab to the field. This is going to bring a revolution. There is a need for capacity building and the department and the growers have to work together,” Ganai said.
Vice Chancellor Prof Nazeer Ahmed appealed to farmers to come forward and take help of the university’s scientists for introduction of High Density Apple plants in their orchards.
“This technology was adopted by western countries in the 1960s and their production increased tremendously. We have better resources and environment compared to them. We were confident that this will yield results. Now, in some varieties we have even surpassed the European countries,” the VC said.
Terming the High Density Plants as the future of Kashmir, Prof Ahmed said that production could be increased to five times of what it is today.
“From a total of twenty species we will promote only those that will fetch more income. We are working on the technological aspect of High Density Plantation and we have also signed MOUs with private organisations. They have also offered fellowships to our students,” Prof Ahmed said.
Secretary Horticulture Manzoor Ahmad Lone gave a detailed presentation about the initiatives taken by the department and those soon to be announced.
“We have grown very much in the past 50-60 years. Today we have 33.50 lakh metric tons of production. We did not have a comprehensive horticulture policy but this month a new policy draft would be made public for suggestion, which would be the first of its kind in the country,” Lone said.
He said that the horticulture department was starting nurseries and in a couple of months would have all the material available for High Density Plantation, which is otherwise costly.
“We are also working on post-harvest management and are approving more storage facilities. We are lagging behind in processing and we will try to provide incentives to people to establish more processing units,” he said.
A large number of farmers were present on the occasion and the interested growers were registered. They will be provided necessary help to establish their orchards with 50 percent subsidy. The farmers also interacted with experts and officials and took a tour of the varsity’s orchards.