Shopian: The Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) is responsible for the near extinction of the famous Hirpora potato, indigenous to Hirpora region in south Kashmir, officials in the Agriculture department told Kashmir Reader.
“New varieties like Kufri Joti and Kufri Himalayan were brought by the SKUAST and distributed in villages instead of doing research on our own Hirpora potato,” an official said.
Ayaz Ahmad, Zonal Officer of the Agriculture department, has been posted in Bohirhalan Shopian since 2014. He said that when he went to Hirpora, he wasn’t aware that the region had its own potato which was far better than the imported varieties. “During seed distribution of new varieties, only one grower, Muhammad Ramzan, refused to grow it, saying he will only grow the traditional potato,” Ahmad told Kashmir Reader.
Another official from the agriculture department said that the SKAUST and its local centre, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), failed to conduct any research on the Hirpora potato even when this indigenous potato was about to disappear.
“What is the job of SKAUST? Research. But they didn’t conduct any. When there was no research, there was no prospect of genetic up-gradation, so how could it be revived?” asked a senior agriculture official.
He said that the Agriculture department sowed the traditional variety at many places and it thrived very well.
Nazir Ahmad Bhat, a grower from Hirpora, told Kashmir Reader that his family grows about 10,000 kilograms of potato but not of the traditional variety.
“Low yield and diseases in summer was the main reason that people opted for the imported varieties,” Bhat said.
Locals from Hirpora and adjoining villages said that the area at present wouldn’t be growing more than ten quintals of indigenous potato.
“There were days when all of the agriculture land in Hirpora was under traditional potato cultivation, but now the times are such that very few people are growing it,” said Muhammad Ramzan.
Ramzan, too, said that nothing was done by SKUAST to save this indigenous potato.
The Hirpora potato is popularly known as Kheera potato or Mutton potato. It is the lone of its kind as far as crunch and taste is concerned. Locals said that the best chips were made out of
it as it did not break while cooking like other potatoes do.
Experts from the Agriculture department said that organic manures were the best to grow this potato. When chemical fertilisers and fungicide sprays began to be used, they further declined the production by damaging the root of the crop.
Dr Syed Faheema Mushtaq, Associate Professor at SKAUST’s Division of Vegetable Science, told Kashmir Reader that research regarding the revival of Hirpora potato is in the pipeline.
“Late blight disease is the main reason for the decline in production of Hirpora potato. Now we are starting a programme for its revival and hopefully it will be a success,” she said.