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High-density apple farming a new trend in valley

 High-density apple farming a new trend in valley

Farmers switch to high-density orchards for 'superior quality, increased yields 

Jahangeer Ganaie

Srinagar, Mar 04 (KNO): The trend of high-density apple farming continues to gain momentum in Kashmir, attracting an increasing number of farmers. Demand for the plantation of such apples is rising steadily.

Growers from various areas of the valley informed the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that more and more farmers are switching to high-density apple farming due to its low input and labour costs, as well as the superior quality of the apples, which exhibit uniformity in colour and size.

They said high-density apples are fetching significantly higher prices compared to traditional varieties, with rates almost doubling.

"You don't need to wait for decades to see fruit-bearing; high-density plants start yielding fruits in the very first year, with a bumper crop every year. They also require fewer fertilizers and pesticides," said Younis Ahmad from Pulwama.

Ahmad said that high-density apples are less susceptible to diseases, and there are protective options available against hailstorms and other threats, which are not available for traditional varieties.

Shakoor Ahmad, a horticulture expert from Shopian, said the high-density apple plants yield about 50 to 70 tonnes of fruit per hectare by the third year of plantation, while traditional varieties produce only 10 to 15 tonnes.

He said the increasing demand for high-density apples and the growing production of such plants.

However, several apple growers expressed frustration as their applications for high-density plantations have been pending for a long time at horticulture development offices.

Officials have cited limited availability of plantations and assured pending farmers that they will be accommodated in the coming year.

The growers urged higher authorities to address the issue and ensure the availability of plantation material.

Varieties such as Jeromine, King Roat, Gala Scarlet, Red Velox, Scarlet Spur-II, Super Chief, Redlum Gala, and Auvi Fuji are currently cultivated in J&K.

A senior horticulture officer informed KNO that the plantation material for high-density varieties is sourced from Europe through empanelled agencies. “The material undergoes a year-long post-entry quarantine before becoming suitable for plantation,” he said.

The officer acknowledged the limitations in availability but assured that efforts are underway to produce such material locally in J&K.

Officials revealed that around 600 hectares of land have been brought under high-density apple farming in J&K, with plans to expand it to approximately 5,500 hectares in the next few years. Orchardists establishing or transitioning to high-density fruit production are eligible for a 50 percent subsidy.

In September 2015, the then J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed inaugurated the erstwhile State's first high-density apple orchard at Bamdoora in south Kashmir's Anantnag district—(KNO)

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