\Amid instances of successful growing of apple trees in the plains of Punjab, experts at Ludhiana-based Punjab Agricultural University have a word of caution for farmers who are keen to take up this “high-risk venture”.

Harminder Singh, Head of Department of Horticulture at PAU, said apple with its short juvenile period as compared to pear comes into first fruiting after three years of planting in the field and commercial bearing starts after four to five years.

Growing of apple trees in plains is a high-risk venture, say researchers at Punjab Agricultural University

Apples are the oldest commercial fruit that is grown every corner of the world. After Banana farming, Orange farming, Apple farming | Cultivation top the list of commercial farming. So, growing apple trees is a good idea, rather than going for any other commercial farming. 

In the world, there are more than 7500 types of apple varieties or cultivars are present. Apple trees are a deciduous tree, reaching a height of 18 feet tallness. However, the wild apples can grow up to more than 35 feet tallness. It is easy to maintain the shape and the size of an apple by selecting good rootstock and performing trimming (Pruning) of the apple tree. All like other commercial farming, agroclimatic condition, soil fertility and good orchard management skills are the key factors, which directly impact on the fruit production of apple cultivation.

Agroclimatic condition surrounding your apple farm is a key factor, that impacts the growth and development of your apples and also on the production. Apple plants are tedious in nature that requires about more than 1000 chilling hours, below 7 °C for the best growth and higher production of fruits. However, this may vary depending on the apples varieties or cultivar. Note that extreme coldness can lead to complete damage of your apple crop. Along with good temp, sufficient sunshine is also responsible for healthy fruit growth and also to catch up an attractive color.

Growing apples, up to 2500 mean sea level height is supposed to be beneficial for earning good profit. An apple orchard requires an avg. temp of 20 to 26 °C during y the growth development period along with 100 to 120 cm annual rainfall. It is notable that fog or heavy rainfall during fruit maturity period is the main cause of improper fruit growth. Also, not that apple farming should be avoided in such area where heavy winds are expected.

An apple tree requires about 120 cm rainfall per annum. So, providing this much of water is beneficial more production of apples. Give water in your apple orchard on a schedule, about 20 irrigation per year. Water frequently in the summer season, it should be given at an interval of a week whereas, in winter, irrigation should be carried out at intervals of three to four weeks or even more.

“Under sub-tropical climatic conditions of Punjab, flowering of apple trees takes place in February. Although this climate is suitable for initial fruit development, the high temperature and low humidity during harsh summer months of May and June impact the physiological fruit development, resulting in poor colour and flavour, coupled with undersized fruits, which often do not mature properly,” he said.

Navtej Singh Bains, director of research at PAU, said apple is typically a temperate fruit requiring winter chilling below seven degrees Celsius, which is why its commercial cultivation is done in the high ranges of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh.

“With high-quality, imported apple varieties having uniform size, shape and deep attractive colours finding extensive market in the State, the potential of low-chill apple cultivation in Punjab needs to be assessed very carefully,” added  Shri . Bains.

Punjab has never been known for apple cultivation as wheat and paddy have remained the two major crops of the state. It has always been perceived to be an uphill task to achieve an incredible diversification feat like growing apples in a state where kinnows, jamuns, mangoes and litchis have been ruling the roost.

But farmer-turned-horticulturist Gurinder Singh Bajwa and his two friends have accomplished the difficult task of successfully growing apples at the commercial level in their orchards at this village situated on the Hoshiarpur-Chintpurni road.

Bajwa, who took a huge risk by planting 400 apple saplings on his two acres in 2012, has started reaping the fruits as his lush plants have started bearing full-sized apples.

Similarly, fresh green apples turning red can be seen flourishing in the fields of his friend Harman Singh Randhawa. Encouraged by their success, a number of farmers of Shivalik foothills have started taking tips from the two progressive farmers.

Buoyed by his success, Bajwa, a Horticulture Development Officer, said it was the peculiar microclimate (relatively low temperature ranging between 5°C and 37-38°C) of Shivalik foothills which had encouraged him to do this experiment with the hitherto untouched apple crop.

“During routine night visits to my farm at the height of summer, I used to observe that most of the time, the mercury hovered between 5 and 10°C which could be close to the ideal temperature required for the growth of apple trees. The temperature was more suitable for the low-chilling apple varieties suitable for tropical climates like ‘dorset’ (golden apples) and ‘anna’. So, I did some homework and managed to fetch 20-15 saplings in 2012 from a company specialising in apple farming. Now, you can see the results,” said a visibly elated Bajwa while showing his full-grown fruit-bearing apple plants in his field.

Bajwa said as an experiment, he had sent two boxes of apples (20 kg each) to the local fruit market last year and it had fetched a wholesale price of Rs 50 per kg.

“We have observed that apple crop alone could fetch at least Rs 1 lakh per annum from an acre wherein farmers could also grow some other crops for the first few years. So, it is for the first time in Punjab that apples have been grown successfully at the commercial level. Which other crop can give this much money? Apple cultivation can change the fortunes of farmers of the Kandi belt of Punjab,” Bajwa added.

 

Chander Mohan

Krishi Jagran/ New Delhi



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