In Shopian, Apple industry gets new lease of life

  • GULZAR BHAT
  • Publish Date: Jul 15 2019 4:39AM
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  • Updated Date: Jul 15 2019 5:33PM
In Shopian, Apple industry gets new lease of lifeGK Photo

Along the main road in Shopian district a road branching off left guides towards Zainpora village where the Advanced Centre for Horticulture Development has set up a far which aims to turn the fortunes of orhardists. 

A band of labourers could be seen working on the farm sprawling over 2600 Kanals of land. 

While some of them are engaged in hoeing, others are beavering away to irrigate the land containing legions of rootstocks of various high density apple varieties.

“If every thing goes well, we will be able to produce 4 lakh imported rootstocks during the year 2019-2020,” says Mohammad Iqbal Malik, the manager of the ACHD farm.

The plants from these rootstocks, Malik says, will be distributed among the orchadists on subsidised prices through the government department of horticulture in next plantation season.

The wide expanse of farming land was acquired by the state government in early 1950s and leased out to the central government for twenty years for setting up a drug farm. 

However, after the lease expired the sate government took the land back and established a nursery in collaboration with Bulagaria. 

In early 1990s when militancy broke out in Kashmir, Bulgaria decided to fold its tents and pulled out.

Subsequently, the department of horticulture converted the farm into Advanced Centre for Horticulture Development (ACHD) with the core objectives of demonstration of research-based techniques, production of high density clonal rootstocks of apple and introduction of dwarf and early bearing varieties of walnut.

“We procure rootstocks of apple from countries like Netherlands, Bulgaria, Armenia and Italy,” Malik says. 

“After the process of multiplication, budding and grafting, the plants are being distributed among the growers.”

According to Malik, the main focus of ACHD is on introducing the new high-density varieties that bear fruit in bulk and could be easily protected from the vagaries of weather.

“Less area of land is required for such varieties and we could use anti-hail nets and other shade screens to protect them from the harsh weather conditions,” Malik said. 

Around 60,000 rootstocks of dwarf apple variety (M9) imported from Netherlands are currently in the post quarantine state in the farm. The variety has aoutab 95 percent survival rate.

“We have introduced this variety for the first time,” says Malik, gesturing towards a small isolated nursery.

According to the official, 56000 grafted high-density plants will be ready in next few months and ACHD is expected to generate revenue to the tune of Rs 20 million in the financial year 2019-2020.

“Soon we are going to introduce Kiwi on a large scale and a dwarf and early bearing of varieties of walnut,” Malik says. 

Around 305 kanals of land are under cultivation of high-density apple variety in Shopian district alone.

“Many apple growers have applied for the high density plants and allied material with the department of horticulture in the district,” an official told Greater Kashmir.

He said that many growers had readied around 600 kanals of orchard land across the length and breadth of the district for planting new varieties.

“And the demand is still growing. In the next few years these new varieties will throw a huge challenge to the conventional varieties.”