SRINAGAR: As erratic weather conditions have played havoc with orchards in Kashmir valley, the government is trying to promote high density plantation cover as an answer to such losses. In the past few years, untimely snow and hailstorms have damaged mature and big trees especially the apple trees, inflicting heavy losses to the horticulture sector here.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has recently said that due to the central government, there is now availability of credit for the high density plantation scheme under the agriculture infrastructure fund. He said that now his administration can achieve the target of 5,500 H.A of high density plantation to change the horticulture sector in a big way to boost the economy.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir is providing 50% capital support up to Rs 22.15 lakh to the farmers who are ready to go for high density plantation schemes in their orchards. Many farmers and orchards have switched over to high density apple trees and many of them have claimed that they got returns in the first year of planting these trees which have been imported from Netherlands and Italy.
The government has already kept the provision of funds in the budget to cover 400 hectare of land under high density apple plantation, while the funds would be available for the plantation of sub-tropical fruit plants for 1000 hectares of land in Jammu and Kashmir.
The J&K administration is in touch with many international experts to give the horticulture sector a new shape and in this direction, recently a delegation of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) came to Kashmir and visited many government plant nurseries. Recently, the J&K government has made a big announcement about the features of this high density plantation scheme. An official spokesman of J&K government said, “Assistance to the tune of 50% of the cost of planting material will be given directly to the farmers through DBT mode. The per plant cost of identified variety is fixed by a Price Determination Committee having members drawn from National Horticulture Board (NHB), Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH), Department of Horticulture and experts from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST). Director Horticulture, Kashmir, is Convener of the Committee.” The 50% assistance to be provided directly to the growers through DBT will be calculated on the basis of prices fixed by the Price Determination Committee on actual costs irrespective of transaction costs between the nursery growers and the farmers.”
The J&K government has also started an online portal inclusive of Monitoring Information System (MIS) so that nursery growers and farmers can register themselves for this scheme. A senior official of the horticulture department looking after South Kashmir told this reporter that they have imported high density plants from Italy and Netherlands and now many farmers in South Kashmir are growing high density apple varieties like Gala Red, Schinco Red, Jeromnie, Red Chief, Red Velox and Scarlet.
While the horticulture sector has suffered a lot due to the erratic weather conditions, especially in South Kashmir, if high density plantation is adopted by the farmers and the government encourages them, it would be a game-changer, especially with international scientific inputs. The plant material from the foreign countries guarantees superior yields, higher yields per hectare, early harvest, and introduction of insect and pest-resistant varieties, thereby saving expenditure on disease and pest control.