Over 95% of the land under organic fruit cultivation grows walnut.
Jammu and Kashmir has been on a mission to turn itself into a hub for organic farming and there are good results forthcoming as well. A fruit that has emerged as the star of the show is walnut.
Over 95% of the land under organic fruit cultivation grows walnut. Deputy director, horticulture, Mohammad Yusuf Dar said, “Under organic cultivation, 1.85 lakh tonne of fruit is produced in Kashmir and 85,000 tonne in the Jammu region.”
Anantnag and Kupwara top the state in walnut cultivation with 11,939 and 8,797 hectares under the fruit, he added. Over the past 40 years, the state has seen an astronomical rise in walnut production from 10,500 tonne to 2.7 lakh tonne in 2012. The cultivation of organic fruit has also seen a steady rise over the past decade.
Organic apple in the works
Enthused the trend, the government itself plans to grow apples organically. The thought is in its infancy, but some farmers have started cultivating organic apples in Kanelwal village in south Kashmir on an experimental basis. “The production of peaches, plums and apricots produced organically in some parts of Kashmir is negligible. The main organic fruit produced in the state is walnut,” Dar added.
The owner of apple orchard in Sonmulla village, Kupwara, Adil Ahmad Malik, says that he has walnut trees adjacent to his orchard and is getting good returns.
Malik adds, “We still use old techniques, however, if walnuts are termed as an organic fruit, the rates will sky rocket. In our neighbouring village, walnut tree (a softer, usually edible part of a nut, seed, or fruit stone contained within its shell) produces kernel that fetches a very high price.’’
He says for the past five years, he has been planting walnut trees with high-quality yield. “In Kashmir, walnuts are grown on marginal land. Experts should produce varieties requiring less land to establish full-fledged orchards.”
Malik’s cousin Showket Ahmad, who owns an outlet at Sopore, Asia’s second-largest fruit mandi, says, “Our focus is on apples and walnuts are our least priority. We need the government to help us export walnut kernels directly to Sopore mandi. Now, we usually sell it to traders in Jammu who are agents of big companies.”
Kashmir produces 80% of country’s walnut
Officials claim that 80% of walnut produced in India comes from the villages of Kashmir and the kernel produced from Kashmiri walnuts are considered the world’s best kernels, which prove lucrative in the international market. Director organic farming centre, Sher Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Mohammad Yusuf Zarger, said, “It is not possible to grow apples organically on a large scale as it will have operational issues, however, on an experimental basis, some farmers have produced organic apples in south Kashmir and fetched a good amount.’’
He added that walnuts were100% organic and scientists are working to produce new varieties, which can fetch good harvest and money in the international market.
“Scientists at SKUAST are working on selection of 25-30 varieties to produce new varieties of walnuts.’’
A researcher in the walnut, Imtiaz Lone, said, “Five varieties of walnuts, Suleman, Hamdan, Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH) 1, 2, 3 are produced in different parts of Kashmir. The emphasis is to produce more varieties with better yield. We are in the process of releasing four or five varieties for the state.’’