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Agriculturists: R & D on promoting commercial crops like Pistachio, heeng may ease out farmers distress

By Mohan Lal Verma
Shimla, Oct 8 (UNI) The variable agro-climate zones of Himachal and other north Himalayan states are suitable for number of commercial crops as a World bank concept paper about diversification and promotions of new agriculture technology puts emphasis on the promotion of research and development of such high-value crop likely to help and ease out agrarian distress, Agriculturists, Social activists and crusader of Farmers agitation said here on Friday.
Number of individual and agriculture institutions in the country are trying hard to focus on cash crop and high value commerce crops promotion including low chilling fruit varieties like apple & pome,

kivi, avocado, exotic vegetable, offseason, vegetable, asoetofida (heeng), cinnamon (Dalchini), black zeera, figs, red globe grapes, coffee and sandal wood etc.
Agriculturist and pioneers in the field are opting for a new diversified pattern and crop pattern to discourage monocrop farming or dependence on water guzzling crops like wheat, sugarcane, Rice and cotton in the country.
Arable land which is rainfed are slowly turning into barren pasture, lantana, weed and grass fields and landfills sites in suburbs due to infestation of crops by wild and stray animals as Farmers continue to depend upon traditional cropping pattern.
The high cost of production and increasing input cost like fuel, fertilizer and pesticides and farm labourer added to mass migration of farmers from agriculture to other modes of livilihood, like hotel, industrial and construction labour, noted rural journalist P Sainath told UNI.
Former IFS officer and Himachal Pradesh Kissan Sabha President Dr Kuldeep Singh Tanwar said state has 65 to 68 percent population which directly rely on the agriculture and allied sectors have small land holdings.
Mass exodus of farmers and farm labourer is also being encouraged by the acquisition of land by non-agricultural sector like real-estate, government mega projects like airport, four lane, national highways and power projects.
“However unmindful investment by the government on such mega projects without studying the adverse impact on the socio-economic and environment already aggregating the crisis in the form of mass exodus and increasing unemployment and wreaking the havoc to the scarce natural resources like land, water ( river as well underground) communication asset and clean environment.”

In the context of commercial crops, he said that the Himalayan region is one of the best and advanced horticultural and agricultural area in the world where the best crops of any global demand could be grown successfully.
Dr Tanwar said that farmers want cultivation of commerical crops provided the government also buids up logistics support and marketing facilities.
There are a number of individual who are switching over to new crops pattern and diversifying, however one of success story ‘Sea Buck thorn’ a high commercial crop once adopted and promoted by the individual and Goverment couldn’t move ahead without logistics support and marketing.
Dr. Vikram Sharma, former coffee board member and has been engaged in research and development work for the Himalayan region from the last 20 years on agricultural and horticulture said that Farmers have only ray of hope is to transform agriculture and diversify it from land and water intensive farming to commercial value crops and cash crop which have long shell life provide greater bargaining power to producers.
He himself is successful agriculturist introducing new crops which are suitable to sub temperate and dry cold conditions in Himalayan and sub Himalayas region of North India.
In the context of his individual efforts of commercial cultivation of pistachios plantations our Himalayan region he said that it could be extended from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand Crossing to the North East.
The agroclimatic conditions of Himalayan states are very conducive and highly favourable for commercial cultivation of pistachios.
“Pistachio farming would prove to be a boon for Himachal Pradesh and Himalayan regions Pistachio As everyone knows by the name, pistachio is considered the king of all dried fruits.” Dr Sharma said.
Pistachio is a dry fruit without which the nuts are incomplete.
Commercial cultivation of pistachios has been started in South in India, but due to adverse climate, it is not able to produce that much quality pistachio nuts..
India is considered a major importer of pistachio fruit, most of the pistachio nuts are imported from America, Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan.
So far, 2 percent of the total consumption in India has not been produced and the entire business is based on imports.
Pistachios require temperature ranging from 4 degrees to 45 degrees Celsius, in which the pistachio plant needs a temperature of at least 50 days from 3 to 5 degress for good production, and a temperature of up to 45 maximum is necessary for good flowers and fruits to come out as good fruits.
He said that all the environmental requirements for pistachios are fulfilled in these areas, which will prove to be a boon for farmers and gardeners to plant them commercially in these areas.
Dr. Sharma informed that this year he has brought 5000 saplings of pistachios to farmers and youth under the economic self-reliance awareness, which will soon be distributed to the aware farmers and youth of the Himalayan region.
Dr. Vikram told that pistachios is a very hardy plant which is prepared as female and male plants, only female native plant produces fruits, it can be cultivated easily in most parts of Himalayan regions.
Mr Sharma said that along with pistachios, other commercial crops like cinnamon, figs, coffee, red globe grapes, kiwi fruits, avocados can also be grown easily in the Himalayan belt.
Dr. Vikram said that he started growing coffee in Himachal Pradesh in the year 1999, which was very successful, the coffee here is more luxurious and aromatic than the coffee of other Indian areas or countries because the temperature variation give it more aromas. .
Dr. Vikram started research and development of producing Asafoetida (Heeng) like precious spice on the soil of county India about 5 years ago, today national level research Institutes have started working on it, which is a matter of great joy and pride for the residents of the Himalayan region, the first Asafoetida cultivation in India has been started from The State of Himachal Pradesh.
Dr Vikram told that, asafoetida was not grown till in our country, but its wild species or family plantations have been found in Kargil, Leh and Ladakh in Kashmir, Lahaul Spiti, Kinnaur in Himachal and Arunachal in North east , although the wild Asafoetida species are found small quantity in the Kargil region but till date no one has done research nor any institute paid attention to it.
Dr Vikram said that after 2014, he has actively pursued agricultural-horticulture research motivated by the flagship programmes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to double the income of farmers 2022 to ensure economic independence.
Dr Vikram said that his aim is to make his next generation financially self-reliant and keep away from the destructive addiction like drugs today’s youth.
He said that soon pistachio plants will reach and they will be distributed among farmers and youths so that farmers and youths can grow crops of high global demand and cultivate spirits.
Dr Vikram said that even after production, he will continue to cooperate with farmers to deliver products to the global market so that farmers can get the right price.

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