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Editorial | Modernise Horticulture 



Modernise Horticulture 

The turbulent political situation in Jammu and Kashmir for about the past three decades has marred its economic development. From being a self-sufficient state in its economic needs once, J&K has now reached a situation where it always has to be dependent on the central funds.

More than 50% of its expenditures are met from the aid and grants provided by New Delhi. Besides, J&K each year raises hundreds of crores in the form of debt. It is becoming extremely difficult for the government to pay back the interest on this debt, not to talk of the debt itself.

The political situation created vested interests and inefficient governments always had something to blame to keep away from prioritising the economic and other developmental needs of the people. An economically weak J&K suited these vested interests, the planning and policies they made never had been for reaping the available resources of the UT. Rather, certain sectors, which are totally dependent and interlinked to external forces, were given priority over the sectors, which have been time tested in J&K and are mostly weathered to external conditions.

J&K in general and Kashmir, in particular, has been an agrarian economy for centuries. And the available natural resources in the state are fertile land, forests and an abundance of water added to temperate climatic conditions, which makes it one of the best-suited places for agriculture, horticulture and other related occupations in the world.

Though the majority of the people here are associated with this profession but the mode of their operations is still primitive with negligible use of technology. Despite that, it is the main contributor to the economy. According to recently issued government figures, yearly export returns from the fruits are about Rs 10,000 crore which is only next to government salaries. Kashmir valley supplies more than 70% of the total consumption of apples in India. But a Kashmir apple fetches only half of what a Himachal Apple gets. J&K has not enough post-harvest infrastructure available and processing of the fruits is happening at a very limited level.

There is no horticulture policy in the state like we have a policy for tourism. Neither there has been any bigger provision in the state budget for the horticulture industry, except for a few tax concessions and schemes introduced in recent years.

Some of the schemes introduced by the government, like high-density plantations look very promising and the results it has shown so far are encouraging. Similarly, the government has roped in some outside investments like that of NAFED for developing high-density orchards and creating infrastructure like cold storage. These tie-ups are very important and will provide the much-needed capital for modernising the horticulture sector in UT. But some farmers have shown scepticism saying that these same are being planned in such a way that will benefit the middlemen and businessmen rather than the farmers.

The UT administration must make sure that all the schemes are formulated in a way that their first priority must be to benefit the poor farmers instead of creating a class of middlemen.

No doubt the horticulture industry needs modern post-harvest technology, processing infrastructure and new marketing strategies. This is only possible if UT makes the sector a priority and there is a long-term policy for it, which particularly revolves around the farmers. Modernising horticulture is the only way to bring economic self-reliance to Jammu and Kashmir.

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At growers’ fingertips | SKUAST-K incubated tech startup revolutionising horticulture in Kashmir



At growers' fingertips

Malik Nisar 

With an aim to make weather advisory, expert help, and irrigation management available to apple growers at their fingertips, data scientist and computational biologist Bahsarat Ahmad Bhat has come up with an artificial intelligence-driven support system for precision farming.

Apple Doc, the mobile application developed by Basharat, provides real-time information and expert help on the timing of irrigation, use of fertilisers and pesticides on the basis of soil testing, weather advisory and other required information on both Android and iOS platforms.

“The app empowers farmers to make the right decisions like what kind of farming approach to take based on the type of soil, what kind of chemicals fertilizer to use or avoid when to go for pesticides, and how to prepare for bad weather,” says Basharat, who has a postdoc in data science from the University of Otago, New Zealand. 

“This will help orchardists increase the apple production and cut the costs, particularly those incurred due to unnecessary pesticide sprays and mismanagement. The app is designed to include a slew of features for apple orchardists on all aspects of plant health and disease diagnosis, plant nutrition and orchard management.”

Instead of settling for a ‘good job’ in New Zealand, which provides many opportunities, in 2020, Basharat decided to come back to Kashmir to work on his idea to provide support to Kashmir’s orchardists. 

“I started working on this app in 2019 when an untimely rain affected more than 50% of the total apple production in Kashmir. I was in New Zealand at the time and decided to come back to develop a weather-based solution, which can provide information to farmers in real-time to avoid any kind of loss in apple production”

—  Basharat Ahmad Bhat, founder and developer, Apple Doc

“The idea behind this app was to bring some innovative steps and advancement in farming in Kashmir. From the last few years, farmers suffered a huge loss due to vagaries of weather and substandard pesticides, which spoil almost 50% of apple production,” says Basharat, while elaborating on the reason behind his idea.

“I started working on this app in 2019 when an untimely rain affected more than 50% of the total apple production in Kashmir. I was in New Zealand at the time and decided to come back to develop a weather-based solution, which can provide information to farmers in real-time to avoid any kind of loss in apple production,” he said.

Back in Kashmir while working as a research scientist at Sher-e- Kashmir University of Agriculture Science and Technology of Kashmir (SKAUST-K), Basharat shared his idea with some faculty members, who not only honed his idea but also helped him to apply for the Government of India’s biotechnology startup grant. 

For his innovative idea of AppleDc, Basharat received Rs 50 lakh funding from Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council under Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIRAC BIG) scheme. Apple Doc startup is incubated by SKIIE Centre at SKUAST-K. 

Launched on March 7, 2022, at the event of the SKUAST-K technology exhibition and farm mela, Apple Doc is connected with satellite data. It provides orchard-specific data and tells a grower when to spry fertilizers and pesticides based on the weather of the area. It also directs him about the irrigation depending on the moisture requirement of an orchard. 

At growers' fingertips

The app’s weather advisory is based on satellite inputs and has very good accuracy. In addition to this, the app has roped in soil scientists, experts from Entomology, fruit science, pathology, and Agricultural methodology so that the best help can be provided. For the remote areas, it has connected with experts from district level Krishi Vigyan Kendra.

“I along with my team have tirelessly worked on Apple Doc to make it more successful although the app is very much new in the market, I am sure it will provide relief to the farming community of Kashmir. In this short period of time, the feedback from users is very much positive and I hope it will be more positive with each passing day,” says Bashrat.

“Apple Doc has helped us in many ways like what kind of pesticide should we use at what time and what kind of nutrients are beneficial for our soil, and many more things. We also fix the appointment with the agriculture experts and discuss our problem with them, then they provide solutions to those problems”

  —  Suhaib Shakeel, an orchardist from the Tral area of Pulwama

Inside Apple Doc App

Apple Doc is an Artificial intelligence-driven decision support system for precision apple farming. The App is available in the Google Play Store for all Android phones and the App Store for iOS phone users with a simple login interface to ensure ease of operation for farmers. A user just needs to enter the basic details to log in.

It provides customized and orchard specific advisories (Real-Time and Reliable) to apple orchardists on all aspects of plant health and disease diagnosis, plant nutrition, and apple orchard management.

Another useful feature of the App is that it provides Weather-based and orchard-specific advisories and also connects farmers with the experts through chat, Video calls and in-person visits.

Through this App, farmers can access local weather, and get good agricultural advice on the best quality sprays and best farming practices.

It also connects farmers with input suppliers, government schemes and banks for subsidies and schemes.

“The features of the application are well researched and well planned by our team. We went to almost every district of Kashmir. We did the survey; we chose a hundred farmers from each district and brought all the information. The goal was to provide a sustainable solution to the problems faced by the farmers in their farming over the years,” said Bashrat.


“Apple Doc has helped us in many ways like what kind of pesticide should we use at what time and what kind of nutrients are beneficial for our soil, and many more things. We also fix the appointment with the agriculture experts and discuss our problem with them, then they provide solutions to those problems,” said Suhaib Shakeel, an orchardist from the Tral area of Pulwama, who came to know about this app in a passenger vehicle during his travel to Srinagar.

“This App has provided much relief to us orchardists,” says Dr Rayees Rasool, an orchardist and Veterinary Doctor by profession from Chandpora village of Bijbehara in Anantnag district. “We are doing everything by following the advisory from the app and it has benefitted us a lot. We apply fertilizers and spray pesticides by taking advice from the experts through this app. Last year our apples got a lot of damage due to erratic weather and wrong spraying, but this year we are hopeful for better production due to Apple Doc,” he said.

Jammu and Kashmir union territories’ economy is predominately agriculture dependent and nearly 70% of the population is directly or indirectly engaged in agriculture and allied occupations.

“Kashmir predominately being the agricultural land needs such kind of advancement in the sector to reap a good harvest and earn a decent amount of income. In the coming times we are planning to bring precision spraying using drone technology and more,” he concluded.

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Hailstorm damages orchards, vegetable crops in Tangmarg



Hailstorm damages orchards vegetables
Tangmarg: Heavy winds accompanied by hailstorms wreaked havoc in various parts of the Tangmarg area of district Baramulla on Wednesday evening damaging orchards, vegetables and other standing crops.
Hailstorms lashed a number of Tangmarg villages including Chandil, Wanigam Buderkoot, Darhama, Kulhama, Tumberhama, Shrai, Check Treran, Druroo, Chandiloora, Ferozpora, Mahayaan, Dardpora Dev Pora, Check Frastreshi, Ganiwani, Kokerdejji, Chann Check, Zandpal, Manchikhod and its adjoining villages causing heavy damage to apple orchards and other crops, villagers said.
The residents said the hailstorm has severely damaged the crops causing losses worth lakhs to the farmers.
“The hailstorm has badly damaged the crops and hit the lone source of income of people in these villages,” said Sajad Ah Teli, a resident of Chandiloora.
Meanwhile affected farmers and apple growers have demanded compensation for the losses and requested the Lieutenant Governor for a quick assessment of the damaged products.
Farmers said lack of crop insurance leaves them in the lurch in times of natural calamities, be it hailstorm on standing crops or untimely snow.

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BARC, SKUAST-K sign pact to use radiation technology in agriculture



BARC SKUAST-K sign pact

BK News
Srinagar, March 25: Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) Mumbai and Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST-K) have signed a pact to bring in radiation technology in agriculture for the development of new crop varieties through mutation breeding, increase in the shelf life of fast perishable fruits and vegetables, and to develop new crop protection technologies for organic agriculture.
The two institutions signed the pact during a recent visit by the SKUAST-K team of scientists, head by the Vice Chancellor Prof Nazir Ahmad Ganai to BARC Mumbai.
Director, BARC, Dr AK Mohanty, during the interaction meeting with the SKUAST-K team, complimented the two institutions for the mutual agreement and assured his full support to Jammu & Kashmir in building the human capacity in the area of radiation technology and its application in the development of climate-smart high yielding varieties, especially crops like saffron, Kala Zeera, the wild tulip of Kashmir and other bulbous crops which show the least variability.
Dr AK Mohanty directed the scientists of BARC for developing protocols on the use of radiation technology for increasing the shelf life of commercially important fruits and vegetable crops and also for delaying the sprouting in onion, shallot and potato to help the UT of J&K in the export of its farm produce with better market prices. Director BARC also opined that J&K Govt. should establish a facility for irradiation of fruits and vegetables for increasing shelf life at a commercial scale to help farmers and traders.
Prof Ganai while interacting with the Director BARC and his scientists emphasized the constitution of the working groups of scientists in different areas of R&D between BARC & SKUAST-K and also desired for joint National Workshop on the role of radiation technology in agriculture to be held in July 2022.
Both the institutions desired to form working groups of scientists to address the different areas of application of radiation technology in agriculture. The heads of two institutions shall periodically monitor the progress of research activities.
Director Research, SKUAST-K, Prof Sarfaraz A Wani gave a detailed presentation before the BARC scientists about SKUAST-K’s achievements in R&D and the proposed areas of collaboration. Director Bioscience Group, BARC, Dr Tapan K Ghanty assured full support and cooperation of the scientists and the availability of the research facilities to the students and Faculty of SKUAST-K. The other scientists from SKUAST-K who were part of the team were Associate Director Research, Rice Research Station Khudwani Dr Najeeb-ur-Rehman and Associate Professor DARS Budgam Dr Aijaz A Dar.
The scientists from BARC who participated during the deliberations were Dr TR Ganapathi, Head, Nuclear Agri and Biotech. Dr S Gautam, Head Food Technology Division, Dr Mukherjee, Dr Sudhir Singh, Dr Archana Joshi and Dr Jyoti Tripathi.

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