Understanding soil type, fertilisers, pesticides usage key to orchard health, say experts

Understanding soil type, fertilisers, pesticides usage key to orchard health, say experts
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‘Use of decomposed homemade manures best’

SHOPIAN: Kashmir Reader (KR) correspondent Raashid Hassan interviewed some senior scientists of SKAUST and KVK Shopian about their take on the use of fertilisers and sprays for horticulture purposes. He talked to three scientists for their expert advice.
Horticulture sector, as we know, is the backbone of Kashmir economy as more than half the Valley’s population earns its livelihood from the sector. Since orchardists and apple growers commit many mistakes using fertilisers and also while spraying pesticides and fungicides to trees or orchards, Kashmir Reader found it apt and timely to talk to the experts to know the actual schedule for sprays and fertilisers.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
First, Dr Mumtaz Ahmad Ganie, a senior soil scientist, posted at KVK Balpora Shopian.
KR: What should orchardists do while mixing the fertilisers around fruit bearing trees?
Dr Mumtaz: Orchardists shall leave 1-1.5 feet around the trunk of the tress while digging and mix the fertilisers around the rest of the tree shade because 1-1.5 feet is meant to support the tree to stand and people should not touch it but should remove the grass regularly.
KR: Which fertilisers are must and how to mix them around trees?
Dr Mumtaz: Three fertilisers – Urea, DAP and MOP are must and these three should be mixed around the tree before 15 days of sprouting. For mixing them, people should first mix MOP and urea with each other and then mix them with the portion around the trees shade and DAP shall be mixed while making at small drain at the end of the shade. Later cover the drain with soil.
KR: What quantity of these fertilisers should be used by people?
Dr Mumtaz: The proper schedule of quality of these fertilisers is: 1.5 kg of urea for the year at three stages that is, 750 grams before 15 days of sprouting, 400 grams after 15 days of fruit set (petal fall) and remaining 350 grams in the month of June provided the soil is moist. If it’s moist by rain then do that after the rain, if not, then it should be done after irrigating the orchard.
The schedule for di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) is 750 grams and it shall be mixed only once in the year and that too before 15 days of sprouting.
Similarly, the schedule for MOP is 2.5 kg for the year and it should be mixed in three stages that is, 1250-1500 grams before 15 days of flowering and the reaming quantity that too is 1250-1500 grams in June that is with the third doze of urea.
KR: What are the cons of excessive use of fertilisers?
Dr Mumtaz: See, it will cause damages or get wasted. For example, if we use more than the aforementioned quantity of DAP, the tree does not have the ability to absorb that as the excessive amount gets fixed in soil and gets wasted. So, it’s better to save money as well as soil. And, similarly, the fertilisers are inter-related for example, if we use excess of one fertilisers, the other gets affected as it stops the supplies (nutrients) to the tree through chemical reactions and even the excess use of one nutrient restricts the opposite nutrient even if that is available in soil (naturally). Balance of nutrients is a must and it should be followed by orchardists religiously. One more thing about the excessive use of fertilisers is that for example if we use excessive urea, the needed quantity gets available for trees with a week of its mixing, the rest of its part gets into the air and if we put it deep, it mixes in the ground water resulting in pollution of water which later causes many diseases among humans. With the excess use of urea, there arises excess vegetative growth and lesser flower bud growth.
KR: How relevant is use of salt as many people do so with different intentions?
Dr Mumtaz: It is extremely dangerous and every orchardist must stop its use once forever. The use of salt will damage the whole soil and, if not stopped, the day is not far when the use of salt will destroy the whole sector. The use of salt restricts a tree to absorb even the needed quantity of water. It creates physiological dryness and the tree dies with this. I have an example from history about a war between the two countries. One was rising after the war as their soil was fertile and the soil of the opponent was not like that and it was taking them a lot time to overcome the destruction of the war as their soil was not able to grow vegetables and fruits. So they, during the next war, filled their (enemy’s) farms and fields with salt and the horticulture and agriculture production stopped there and they lost the war due to the shortage of food.
KR: How and when to use calcium fertilisers?
Dr Mumtaz: Orchardists should not use calcium every year as its sufficient quantity is already available in the soil but what happens there is the arrival of dry and submerging conditions, the calcium at both the times doesn’t get supplied to tress so for that purpose people should use spray instead of fertilisers. And for a good growth, orchardists should use calcium-boron sprays thrice in a year and not use calcium nitrate because the soil doesn’t need that. Orchardists should use boron spray on pink bud, then there should be calcium chloride dose when the fruit is visible and the third dose also calcium chloride after 21 days of first calcium spray.
KR: How and when to take sample for soil and leaf tests and what are the symptoms of an upcoming disease?
Dr Mumtaz: Sample of soil test should be taken after harvesting till next use of fertilisers and leaf test samples should be taken from 15 July to 15 August – no issue if taken for tests late but samples should be taken.
Leaves turning yellow in lower part of tree in mid season is considered as lack of nitrogen and in upper parts as lack of sulphur but it’s better to conduct tests after taking samples because the signs are vast so are the diseases and symptoms and the best treatment can be given after tests. Ascertaining diseases with naked eye is not easy to find out the actual reason of diseases. And during the leaf issue there remains the deficiency of zinc as well.
KR: What are the other advices for orchardists?
Dr Mumtaz: People should keep the tree shade area (the area around the branches of tree) clean at all stages and in the month of June and July should keep no grass in the orchard because due to the humidity it creates many problems in leaves and fruits.
Next, about use of horticulture mineral oil (HMO) and for that purpose Kashmir Reader spoke to Dr Khursheed Ahmad, a SKAUST entomology (insect science) scientist based at Pahnoo research centre.
KR: How to spray and mix HMO and when?
Dr Khursheed: For SKAUST, every HMO is same and there is no difference about mixing one litre of HMO of the different brands with water. People should mix two litres of HMO (recommended by SKAUST) with 100 litres of water and it should be sprayed in dormancy that is, before the arrival of green tip as if used after the arrival of green tip with the above quantity can cause damage.
Raashid Hassan: People mix insecticides with the HMO, how effective is that?
Dr Khursheed: Mixing insecticides with HMO is useless, waste of money and polluting the environment. HMO besides treating San Jo’s scale and red mite also acts against insects as it makes a layer around the insect and kills it with suffocation.
Raashid Hassan: People also mix different oil brands with different quantity of water. Does that have any use for trees?
Dr Khursheed: We have recommendations and research from SKAUST that two litres of HMO (applied to every brand) should be mixed with hundred litres of water and excessive use of it upto orchardists if they don’t listen to us.
Raashid Hassan: What about spraying HMO after the leaves come out and the tree remains with full leaves and fruits?
Dr Khursheed: Yes, people can use HMO during summer spray after they find symptoms of diseases, like San Jo’s scale and red mite but in summers people must mix 700 millilitres (ml) of HMO with 100 litres of water and it’s effective at that stage but people must know that they should not mix more than 700 ml with 100 litres of water as it can cause damages.
Next, about other sprays, details given by Dr Tariq Rasool. He is a senior scientist posted at KVK Balpora Shopian.
KR: What is the relevance of copper spray in dormancy or before sprouting?
Dr Tariq: It’s a futile exercise and waste of money. People should not spray copper at this stage.
KR: What are the means of pollination?
Dr Tariq: People should keep good ratio of natural pollenisers (trees) in the orchards as it helps in fruit set to a large extent. For pollination, there should be tress of different varieties not one variety.
KR: How to use other fungicides and pesticides?
Dr Tariq: SKAUST has given a full-fledged spray schedule for orchardists and they should follow that. If people find any difficulty with inclement weather like rains and dry weather, they can contact their nearest KVKs or government research centres as free and fair expert advice is being given to them. We are always available for people and we wish them shine and prosper, our team of experts, doctors and scientists is always available for them.
Scientists also believe that use of decomposed homemade manures are the best and orchardists, besides making pits, should take advice from the experts and after using homemade manures like from cowdung, people should then reduce the quantity of ready-made fertilisers.