KULGAM: One of the main industries supporting the economy of Kashmir is horticulture bearing a variety of fruits and providing livelihoods for a large part of the rural population, especially those who live on the keravas and highlands . Due to the temperate climate, Kashmir grows many varieties of apples, apricots, almonds, peaches, cherries, plums, pears, walnuts and other fruits.
As the horticulture sector saw prolific production and cultivators earned huge incomes, this sector attracted more and more people in pursuit. This attraction of farmers to cultivate their orchards found new high density plants provided by the Horticulture department.
Kashmir’s Department of Horticulture trained farmers and familiarized them with modern technology and high density plants to increase their income.
In Kulgam district, the Department of Horticulture, through farmer awareness programs, seminars, training programs and other channels, has educated people about high density planting and motivated them to introduce these varieties into their orchards, as this guarantees a bumper harvest and increased income.
Kulgam is witnessing the realization of these efforts on the ground, as many people have established HDP orchards on their fields over the past two years.
“High density planting gives higher yield as well as yields per unit area by increasing the number of trees per unit area compared to traditional varieties,” said Horticulture Manager Kulgam, Dr Mohammad Iqbal.
With minimum investment and enormous return, the HDP has raised the socio-economic status of people affiliated with horticulture. This agriculture not only directly benefits the farmers, but also contributes to the increase in the region’s GDP.
With each passing year, high-density apple farming is gaining momentum in Kulgam and, like the success of the farmers who adopted it in the first place, has become a topic of conversation in the town.
Mohammad Sikander Rather, a resident of Mirhama Modergam area, established a high density orchard with the help of the department in 2017-2018. At that time, the Horticulture Department provided him with 888 HD plants for an area of eight Kanals.
As his orchard grew and the plants began producing crops within a year, Sikander was amazed at the abundance of produce.
He started working hard to harvest even in large quantities, but his hard work alone was insufficient for his large orchard. He employed a few more people who helped him with his many endeavors like operating farm machinery and other time-related horticultural activities in the orchard. Sikandar pays them good wages for their work which helps them to feed their respective families.
He is happy with HD Orchards because this year too his profit realization has more than doubled compared to conventional apple growing.
Almost 23,254 hectares of land is in horticultural production while the number of orchards currently in the district is 64,000. This sector produced an output of 244,493 metric tons in 2021-22 with a turnover of Rs.1441 Crores.
The trend of converting other land into orchards is increasing in addition to t under the area expansion program, in the current fiscal year, an area of 138.10 Kanals has been placed under Ultra High Density Plantation (Apple) with financial assistance of Rs 140.00 Lakhs. In addition, an area of 8.9 hectares was planted in normal high-density plantation (Apple tree) under CSS-MIDH.
To boost production through modernization/mechanisation, the Department provided tractors, tillers, motorized sprayers, brush cutters and water lifting devices were distributed to the beneficiaries.