Ghulam Hasan Khan of Kashmir adopted high management techniques in apple cultivation, likes to experiment
Good technique adopted to protect apple crop from birds
“No, I did not feel pain, it was because I was happy to plant the new ones,” said Ghulam Hassan Khan, a 55-year-old farmer from Kashmir, when he was asked to cut almond trees in an old orchard to plant apples. Educated and progressive, Ghulam Hasan is one of those farmers of Pulwama district of Kashmir who does not hesitate to experiment in farming. At least, don’t hesitate at all when making a change shows good income. Ghulam Hassan is a resident of Payar village in Kashmir. Payar village is home to about 400 families. Ghulam Hassan says, “I am the first among the farmers who have cultivated an Italian variety of High Density Apple Plant within a radius of 20 km.”
Apple trees planted by cutting almond trees
This is the matter of 2019 when Ghulam Hassan Khan conducted two experiments simultaneously in his land located in village Kareva. The area with farmland and plantation on top of the mountain on the outskirts of the village is called Kareva or Woodar in Kashmir. Here Ghulam Hasan cut almond trees in 5 kanals out of about 18 kanals of land so that apples could be planted in their place.
The second experiment he did in selecting the apple variety. He chose such a variety of apple, which no other farmer in the vicinity was cultivating at that time. He procured saplings of the apple variety popularly known as Italy Apple from a private company, which imports these plants from abroad.
Italy apple variety chosen
Apart from being different from the traditional apple in terms of colour, form and taste, this apple also gets good price, so Ghulam Hasan did not have any trouble and no hesitation in cutting down the old almond trees. They started getting yields only a year after the new apple saplings were planted. Ghulam Hassan also told many more benefits behind planting a new variety of apple in place of the traditional Kullu Delicious variety tried for years.
Advantages of high-density technology over conventional farming
High Density Technique i.e. Italy Apple variety of high density apple, where the plant starts bearing fruit the very next year after planting, and at the same time, by the time of three years, it becomes a full-bearing tree with full potential. Whereas Kullu Delicious or other traditional apple varieties take 10 to 12 years to develop the full potential of the plant.
More trees are planted in high density technology
In one kanal area, 170 trees are planted with high density technology, whereas about 20 trees of traditional apple require this much space. Not only this, each tree of high density also gives more fruit than the traditional tree. The cost of apples grown with high density technology in the market is also higher than the old variety of apples. In today’s era, where Kullu Delicious Mandi sells for Rs 35 to 40 a kg, apples grown with high density technology get almost double the price.
Due to not spreading much and staying up to 9 -10 feet in height, apple crop is also easy to harvest. Apples are easily plucked from the tree by climbing a stool or a small ladder. These trees grow in a straight line and there is also a distance between two parallel rows of trees. Therefore, there is a lot of sunlight even on the vacant land between them, so vegetables can be planted easily at that place. Ghulam Hassan has also grown vegetables, which he uses for his home.
Enthused by the success of his experiment in 2019, Ghulam Hassan removed the almond trees on 8 kanals of land and planted high-density apple saplings in 2021. While other traditional apple crops are harvestable between September and November, in high density apples are ready in the month of August. This is the first fresh crop of apple in the season, so its prices are also found right.
Other farmers were also inspired by Ghulam Hasan
Seeing Ghulam Hasan’s vision, other farmers in his area have also turned to high-density apples. Not only in Pulwama, the production of apples with high density technology has also become the trend of the farmers of Kashmir.
Lack of proper supply of water for irrigation and weather effects due to climate change is a major challenge for apple farmers. They have to depend on rain and snow because high density apple plants have drip irrigation, so there is good water management. The company supplying the plants puts a network of water tanks and pipelines for this. These pipes are tied to the tree trunk and support at a height of one and a half to two feet above the ground, from which water keeps dripping. For this, Ghulam Hasan has arranged tanks to store 12,000 litres of water, which are placed at a sufficient height. He explains that in summer days when there is no rain in Kashmir (from April to October), then just irrigating half an hour in the morning and evening is enough.
Method adopted to protect apple from birds
Where Ghulam Hasan first planted high density apples, there are also the best quality ‘Golden’ variety of apple trees. Here they have also put a strong plastic mesh like a tent over the trees. Its purpose is to protect the apple crop from hailstorm, but it is also a solution to another problem and that is protection from birds. Birds damage a lot of apple crop by beaking them. Because of the trap, they stay out of their reach.
Stored for long periods
The risk in high-density apples is simply that the apples cannot be stored for long periods without cold storage after they have been harvested from the tree. The lifespan of the apple trees is much shorter than that of other traditional cultivars, but these trees produce more fruit within a few years than other varieties of apple trees which cannot produce in the entire life cycle. Rather say that even if the life cycle of those trees is doubled, even then they cannot give an equal crop of this variety.
Ghulam Hasan has been ahead since the beginning in terms of application in agriculture. He laid a pipeline 600 feet below to bring water to his garden at Kareva (mountain plain) from where water could be drawn by motor. By adopting this idea of his, some other gardeners have also made arrangements for good irrigation of their trees.
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