Srinagar: Scientists at Jammu and Kashmir’s agriculture university claim to have worked out the perfect script to make India one among world’s top walnut producers.
They believe that once the Valley will have regular walnut orchards on the pattern of apple orchards, the production will increase manifold within five years.
India at present lags behind China and the United States in walnut production, “Unlike apple orchards, growers in Kashmir don’t have regular walnut orchards,” said Dr Imtiyaz Lone, a walnut expert and scientist at Sher – e -Kashmir Agriculture University in Kashmir.
“On the advice of the agriculture university, the growers have begun developing walnut orchards along the lines of those in the United States, China and other countries,” he said.
Of the country’s total walnut produce, J-K contributes 85 per cent while the rest is shared by Shimla and Uttaranchal.
Around 87,000 tonnes of walnut kernels are being produced annually from 40 lakh walnut trees cultivated on 61,000 hectares of land across the state.
With most trees being 100 to 150 years old, the Agriculture University along with the state’s Horticulture department is also encouraging fresh walnut plantation.
Dr. Lone said the scientists have already chalked out a plan to help growers establish regular walnut orchards. “If everything works according to the plan, then within the next five years Kashmir will have regular walnut orchards on the countryside and our production will go up ten times,” he said. “I am hopeful that India will be a leading walnut producing country. And the credit for that will go to J-K growers,” he said.
To achieve its goal, the Pamology Department of SKUAST has started distributing thousands of hybrid grafted walnut plants among the growers. “Besides, distribution of walnut plants, we also provide technical assistance to the growers,” said Dr Lone. “We have developed 20 new walnut varieties at the Agriculture department. So far saplings of Hamdan and Suleiman varieties have been distributed among the growers,” he said. “Another 18 new hybrid varieties of walnut will be released in a phased manner once they are approved by the screening committee.”
Scientists claim that the Hamdan and Suleiman varieties are better than Chandlar, Serr, Tutle varieties grown in the United States. “Quality wise, our varieties will be far better,” said another expert.
Considered an organic fruit, walnut is not prone to diseases and thus doesn’t require pesticide. “At present, more and more growers are showing interest in walnut plantation,” said Saif-ud-din Shah, a grower in Kupwara, north Kashmir’s walnut belt.
There’s, however, a hitch in increasing walnut production that growers talk about. “We lack expertise and still rely on old techniques,” he said. In 2007, the walnut traders and exporters exported kernels worth Rs 100 crore.