Apple, being an important fruit crop of the mid-hills of Himachal Pradesh is currently covering an area of approximately 38,000 hectare with the production of around 5 lakh MT in Shimla district only. Traditionally, being known for producing the “Delicious” cultivars of apple, however, less proportion of polliniser was used in apple orchard that resulted into lower productivity despite the increase in the area. The alternate bearing, low spur formation, less fruit set are also some of the problems that have been encountered by the growers. Further, the poor colouration at lower elevation and delayed maturity at higher elevation aggravated the problems under the climate change scenario that resulted into low productivity and profitability. With an aim to address these problems, the need for promoting the various self-pollinated, self-fruitful, spur type and other coloured strains for higher fruit yield and enhancing income was felt.
Plan, implementation and testing
While keeping the decline in production and poor fruit quality in the mid hills of Himachal Pradesh in view, Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Rohru in the Shimla district, under the administrative control of Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Solan undertook several interventions for replacing the ‘Delicious’ variety with the coloured/spur strains. During the initial stage, the KVK assessed the coloured/spur type strains during the Year – 2005 to 2009.
Looking into the promising results, KVK conducted Frontline Demonstrations (FLDs) involving 100 farmers during Years – 2010 to 2018. Simultaneously, the various capacity development programmes were also organised for motivating and mainstreaming more than 4,000 farmers with an aim to upgrade their knowledge and skills. KVK regularly conducted diagnostic visits for solving the problems being faced by the farmers. The farmers were also motivated through the exposure visit at the KVK farm, conducting location specific training camps and helped in developing their own mother plants of suitable varieties.
The KVK supplied more than 50,000 planting material of coloured strain/spur type varieties such as Gale Gala, Scarlet Spur, Red Chief in the last one decade. The plant density of the traditional most popular variety- Delicious – was 300 plants per hectare, whereas, the plant density of spur type coloured strains was suggested to be around 600 plants per hectare due to its canopy size. In addition to the supply of quality planting material, the KVK also guided the farmers in laying out the orchard in scientific way in different parts of the district. In sloppy areas, the planting was done in the contour system, whereas, in the valley areas, the farmers were advised for adopting the square and rectangular or hexagonal system based on topography.
For horizontal spread in large area, the KVK developed Bud Wood Bank (BWB) for these spur type and coloured strains for the supply of quality planting material at affordable prices. The KVK also supplied about 40,000 scion woods of coloured strains of apple.
The introduction of these coloured strains/spur varieties, regular bearing and less chilling requirement, in the mid hills of Himachal Pradesh showed encouraging results. Many orchardists from the different parts of the district approached the Krishi Vigyan Kendra for the supply of quality planting material for changing their old and senile orchards. The average yield of ‘Delicious’ variety of apple was 7.7 tone per hectare that has now increased to 19.4 tone hectare due to the replacement of these strains.
The average net return from the Spur type varieties increased significantly with comparison to the traditional ‘Delicious’ varieties from Rs 1.59 lakh hectare to Rs 9.16 lakh per hectare. Consequently, the B:C ratio of Spur type cultivars varied from 3.94 to 5.4, that is quite high with comparison to the delicious cultivars.
Currently more than 25 per cent area, around 9500 hectare, has been transformed into spur type and coloured strains orchards. With 151 per cent increase in fruit yield and 474 per cent in net return from the coloured strains was much higher than the traditional ‘Delicious’ variety of apple. The increase in income has ultimately improved the living standard of the farmers.