Progressive farming is the farming by farmers who are either using modern technology or following the process to produce more than other farmers of that region or doing something which not other farmers are doing. We can say understand with an example from a village where everyone is growing cereals and pulses. One farmer takes the risk of starting flower cultivation by learning techniques from internet or from KVK or university and makes it successful, it can be called progressive farming. Apple is an edible fruit produced and its scientific name is Malus domestica and its trees are cultivated worldwide and are the most widely grown species in the genus Malus. The tree originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe and were brought to North America by European colonists. Apples have religious and mythological significance in many cultures, including Norse, Greek, and European Christian tradition. There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples. Different cultivars are bred for various tastes and use, including cooking, eating raw and cider production. Apple can be grown in northern and the southern half of the globe it is unimaginable in the tropical atmosphere of South Asia. Henceforth apple is become just at higher rise where the temperature drops down to a low dimension which is very required for the development of such natural product bearing trees. Along these lines in the Indian sub landmass the Himalayan area particularly in Kashmir region which is known for its tasty apples across the globe as well as for other fruits. It is believed that Shamir rulers had spread out garden enclosures and plantations in the valley. Sultan Zain-ul-Abidin “Budshah” (1420-1470AD) imported many organic product unites for encouragement amid his rule alongside the specialty of joining from Central Asia. Kashmir has been a hotspot for quite a while of engendering material of temperate foods grown from the ground for other mild zones of the Indian subcontinent. In prior occasions, there were for the most part six sorts of Kashmiri Apple grown in Kashmir, Ambri Kashmir, American Trel, Delicious(Red Delicious), Maharaji Apple, Hazaratbali Apple (Benoni), Golden Delicious Apple. Over the past several years, the high density apples are massively grown in Kashmir and people are also getting good benefits. The popular varieties include Gala Red, Schinco Red, Jeromnie, Red Chief, Red Velox, and Scarlet. These varieties have mostly been imported from Italy. Over the past 7-8 years, high density apple trees are replaced high density apple trees which have been imported from the foreign countries and farmers are getting good benefits. The demand for high density Apple plantation has increased in south Kashmir districts. Imported Apple varieties that yield more fruit, consume less fertilizer and pesticide is in greater demand. The government promotes high density plantations, by providing farmers a subsidy of 50% on this re-plantation.There is need of proper irrigation is vital for raising this type of plantation and may need a bore well facility and contrary to traditional plantations this setup needs a drip pattern of irrigation, proper sanitation, and frequent checkups. Under high density plantation, about 4000 plants can be planted per hectare which is 250 trees under traditional farming. High density Apples consume 70% less fertilizer and 80% lesspesticide spray, adding that these Apple trees produce about 50 to 70 tons of fruit per hectare by the third year of plantation while traditional varieties produce about 10 to 15 tons.According to government figures, Kashmir exports around 20 lakh metric tons of apple every year, and the horticulture industry is pegged to be worth around 8000 to 9000 crore including the employment it generates. Kashmir produces 75% of the total apple production in the country. These plants enter the fruit bearing stage quickly, which is the core motivation for growers to go for the high density plantation. They have good economic potential in the region.
Now people have started shifting to more profitable varieties in Kashmir. They observed that apple farming is surely a business which we can rely upon for the livelihood. After that some other hybrid varieties like Kullu Delicious, etc were tried by the growers and it fetched a very good market. This sort of conventional Apple Farming is still prevalent in many parts or we can say in every part of Kashmir. No doubt it is procuring benefits to the growers but these benefits are not of the level of gains achieved by the growers of Himachal Pradesh and other foreign countries. J&K has an enormous potential of producing quality apples. In order to come at par with the farmers of foreign countries and to double the income of the Apple growers, there is a scope for improvement in the cultivation of apples by introducing improved varieties to increase the per hectare productivity. We need to bridge the gap between the conventional methods and the latest technologies like controlled atmosphere cold storage and grading lines which will surely add to the returns of the growers. The main step towards the goal is a switch from traditional apple farming to progressive apple farming. This will surely create employment opportunities for the educated youth of the valley. After witnessing a slump for the last few years due to unseasonal snowfalls, scabs and low prices, high density apple farming is the only way out. At present, a traditional apple orchard can accommodate 300 plants per hectare while as on a clonal rootstock a high density apple orchard can accommodate 3000 plants per hectare. This will surely enhance the productivity manifold. Furthermore, high density Apple orchards start yielding in the second year of plantation and reach full production in the fifth year of plantation. In comparison, traditional Apple orchards start bearing fruits in seventh or eighth year of plantation and reach full production almost after 15 years of plantation. Over the past years, many educated youth in the valley have shifted to progressive apple farming and they turned out to be very successful entrepreneurs. These orchards fetch very good rates in the early days of harvesting season as compared to the traditional verities. The exporters flock these orchards to buy the rootstock crops which can be seldom seen in the middle of the harvesting period for traditional varieties. Based on my personal estimations, a High Density Apple Plant can yield one tray in 2nd year of plantation, two trays in 4th year of plantation and three trays on full maturity. One Kanal of land can accommodate 150-160 HD Plants which sums up to 150 trays in 2nd year, 300 trays in 4th year and 450 trays in 6th year of plantation. Going by the current market trends, one kanal of land can yield 1.5 lac in 2nd year, 3 lac in 4th year and 4.5 lac in 6th year of plantation. This figure is quite high as compared to the traditional apple farming. (Note: These are rough figures based on my personal experiences and may vary). To conclude, I must say that Progressive Apple Farming is the future of Kashmiri apple industry and it is none less than a top notch corporate job for the educated youth.
(The author is a Vocational Trainer at Govt. Boys High School Gariend Budgam .Views are his own)