AGRI VARSITY CAUTIONS FARMERS ON APPLE CULTIVATION IN PUNJAB
Ludhiana, May 25…
“Although a prized fruit, Apple with its unique taste and nutritional attributes is typically a temperate fruit requiring winter chilling below 7oC, which is why the commercial cultivation of apple in the country is being done in high ranges of Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh,” informs PAU Director of Research, Dr Navtej Singh Bains. He however explains that due to development/ selection of varieties having low chill requirement, apple cultivation has also been explored in areas having mild winters.
It is worth mentioning that PAU initiated work on apple cultivation in 2012 with introduction of 29 low chill requiring varieties like Crisp Pink, Liberty, Stayam, Fuji etc apple varieties from India and abroad. The evaluation is being undertaken at four locations including PAU Research Stations, Gurdaspur and Ballowal Saunkhari; Fruit Research Station, Gangian and KVK Pathankot.
Dr Harminder Singh, Head of Department of Horticulture, informed that Apple with its short juvenile period as compared to pear comes into first fruiting after 3 years of planting in the field and commercial bearing starts after 4-5 years. Under sub-tropical climatic conditions of Punjab, flowering in apple takes place in Feb. Although this climate is suitable for fruit set and initial fruit development, the prevailing high temperature coupled with low humidity during harsh summer months of May and June impact the physiological fruit development, thus leading to poor colour and flavor development coupled with undersized fruits which often do not mature properly. Rotting of fruits due to sun scalding is also an imminent issue during this phase of fruit development.
Dr Bains adds, “With high quality imported apple varieties having uniform size, shape and deep attractive colours finding extensive market in the state, and the apple belt in the country having moved towards higher altitudes in response to global warming, the potential of low chill apple cultivation in Punjab needs to be assessed very carefully.” He further cautions that since the work on evaluation of these varieties started just 5-6 years back and till date only two of the varieties namely Anna and Golden Dorsett have come into fruiting, so it is too early to judge the potential of the crop in the state.
“Although, diversification of Punjab Agriculture is an imminent need and the role of the press in communicating the same is noteworthy, at the same time the farmers, already under economic distress should not be induced to take up high risk ventures, stresses Dr Bains, while adding that, “at researchers end the possibility of using immature fruits for processing purposes, for instance cider making is worth exploring.”