Agriculture is the cultivation of land, whether by traditional means or with modern technology. Cultivating the soil can be not just to produce crops but also to provide fodder for domestication of animals and pastoral farming. The agricultural processes of a region are directly influenced by its physical environmental conditions (temperature, precipitation, terrain, soil, etc.) and also by its socio-cultural milieu (land tenancy, size of holding, technology, workforce, family requirements, irrigation, power, roads, marketing, aspirations of the growers, etc.)
I write this article to give you a concise account of the general land-use, cropping pattern, crops concentration, crops combinations, and the agricultural operations being carried out in the different agro-climatic regions of Jammu and Kashmir. The Union Territory of J&K is essentially a mountainous region in which only about 30 percent of the area is under cultivation. However, agriculture is the mainstay of the people as it provides employment, directly or indirectly, to about 70 percent of the workforce. It also contributes about 65 percent of the state revenue, which explains the overdependence of the UT on agriculture.
Land is, however, limited and therefore its judicious utilisation is necessary to meet the growing need of the tremendously increasing population and for the sustainability of soils, ecosystems, and environment. Agriculture is a broad term and contains many fields within, such as Horticulture, Animal Husbandry, and Sericulture. Someone has rightly said that agriculture is the mother of all cultures. Without agriculture, achievement of good economic growth is almost impossible. It is the backbone of secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. Since the 1960s, contribution of agriculture to J&K’s State Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) is decreasing. In 1966 there was tremendous increase in the production of cereals, mainly rice and wheat. It was possible due to the Green Revolution that came from the efforts of Dr Norman E Borlaug and Dr M S Swaminathan. Due to increasing population and limited land availability, there is now the need of an Evergreen Revolution.
Agriculture provides many employment opportunities and surveys show that about 55% population of J&K is dependent upon agriculture. At present, contribution of agriculture to national GDP and state GDP is 17% and 16.05% respectively. We cannot live without food and it is agriculture which provides us food to eat and live. But the goods produced from agriculture serve as raw materials for industries as well. People working in such industries are also thus dependent on agriculture. Some of the major crops and products from agricultural practices are rice, maize, wheat, pulses, cotton, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, vegetables, fruits, and many more.
In J&K, farmers usually go for double cropping in a year. In Kashmir valley, farmers grow rice in kharif season and oilseeds in rabi season. We have also some peculiarities in Jammu and Kashmir region, like Basmati rice is grown in RS Pura region of Jammu whereas apples are mainly produced in Kashmir valley. The climate is different in the two divisions of Jammu and Kashmir. In Kashmir we have temperate climate while in Jammu there is subtropical climate. The hilly areas of both the divisions, however, grow maize under rainfed conditions. We have scope for wheat cultivation in Rabi season but here we need early maturing wheat varieties so that rice can be grown well in time.
Nowadays, people are practising lavender cultivation for high-quality oil that is used in scents and perfumes. It is worth mentioning here that 1kg of lavender oil costs 15,000-20,000 rupees. I am of the opinion that we must promote lavender cultivation where it is suitable. There is also scope for Kala Jeera cultivation in Gurez region of Bandipora district of Kashmir, and for cultivation of rose plants for oil which is also used in scents and perfumes. One kg of rose oil costs about four lakh rupees. The government must ensure marketing and industrial facilities to growers in the areas suited to such cultivation.
Coming to vegetable production, the UT has immense potential for it under natural as well as under protected conditions. We have seen that vegetable growers are producing vegetables even during off season due to the availability of green houses. In Budgam and many other districts, vegetable growers are producing vegetables in large quantities under natural as well as green house conditions. Even family of UT is producing vegetables to sustain family needs.
There is also great scope for organic farming in vegetable production. We can produce vegetables by organic means without using chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This can be done by use of organic manures like FYM and vermicompost. Organically produced vegetables are beneficial for health. It is worth mentioning here that organic manures are easily available and can be produced at home at low cost. In this way farmers can earn more by investing less. In a serious effort towards organic farming in Jammu & Kashmir, the government declared Bungund village of Pulwama district as the model village for producing vegetables without chemicals and pesticides.
Almonds, walnuts, pears, and peaches are cultivated in many areas of J &K. Educated youth can boost the agriculture sector by starting their own enterprises and in this way also generate employment to others in need.
We have great potential for apple production. Farmers are growing many varieties of apple, such as Delicious, Gala, Kulu (Royal Delicious), Ambri, and MM series. Now many farmers are moving towards High Density Plantation apple varieties. The best advantage of HDP is that it gives fruits early and farmers can earn revenue without waiting for six years. In order to increase income of farmers, government of J&K has already started Market Intervention Scheme for apple marketing. I am of the opinion that in every district of Kashmir valley, the government must establish fruit mandis for easy marketing of fruits.
Our UT also produces a good quality of saffron which is famous throughout the world. Saffron is mostly produced in the karewas of Pampore and it has been recently awarded Geographical Indication (GI) tag with a documentation number of 635. However, the economy of J&K is in a bad shape and people associated with agriculture are moving to other professions. Land conversion practices are common and agricultural land is reducing day by day. The profitability of agriculture in J&K is on the decline and this is reducing the contribution of agriculture to the GDP year after year. I would like to say that people must involve themselves in agricultural practices to sustain both their family as well as the society’s needs. Land conversion practices must be avoided and laws must be framed to restrict them.
Let us support farmers and let us promote agriculture in J&K.
—The writer has an MSc in Genetics and Plant Breeding from SKUAST-KASHMIR. [email protected]