By Rafiq Ahmad Mengnoo
Agriculture to me is the cultivation of land either traditionally or with the use of modern technologies. In other words, the practice of cultivating the soil in order to produce crops and domestication of animals and pastoral farming are known as agriculture. The agricultural processes of a region are directly controlled by the prevailing physical environmental condition (temperature, precipitation, terrain, soil etc.) and the socio-cultural milieu (land tenancy, size of holding, technology, workforce, family requirements, irrigation, power, roads, marketing, aspirations of the growers, etc.).
I write this article to give you a concise account of the general land-use, cropping pattern, crops concentration, crops combinations and the agricultural operations being carried out in the different agro-climatic regions of the Jammu and Kashmir UT. Jammu and Kashmir is essentially a mountainous UT in which only about 30 per cent of the reporting area is under cultivation. Agriculture is the mainstay of the people as it provides employment, directly or indirectly to about 70 per cent of the workforce. It contributes about 65 per cent of the state revenue which explains the overdependence of the UT on agriculture. Land is, however, limited and therefore, its judicious utilization is necessary to meet the growing need of the tremendously increasing population and for the sustainability of soils, ecosystems and environment. It is a broad term and contains many fields within viz. Horticulture, Animal Husbandry and Sericulture. Someone has rightly said that agriculture is the mother of all cultures. Without agriculture, achievement of good economic growth is almost impossible. It is backbone of secondary and tertiary sectors of economy. Since 1960s contribution of agriculture towards state Gross Domestic Product (SGDP) is decreasing, which in my opinion is not a good sign. In 1966 there was a tremendous increase in the production of cereals mainly Rice and Wheat. It was possible due to Green Revolution and it was possible due to contribution of Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and Dr. M. S. Swaminathan. Due to Increasing population and limited land availability, there is a need of Evergreen Revolution. Agriculture is providing vast employment opportunities and research confirmed that around 55% population is dependent upon agriculture. It is the backbone of Country’s as well as Jammu and Kashmir economy. At present contribution of agriculture towards national GDP and state GDP is around 17% and 16.05% respectively. We cannot live without food and it is the agriculture which provides us food to eat and live. The goods produced from agriculture practices are acting as raw materials for industries. So industries are almost dependent upon agriculture and so jobs of people working in industries. Some of the major crops and products produced from agricultural practices are rice, maize, wheat, pulses, cotton, sugarcane, jute, tobacco, vegetables, fruits and many more.
In J & K UT farmers usually go for double cropping in a year. In Kashmir valley, farmers grow rice in kharif season and oil seeds in rabi season. We have also peculiarities in Jammu and Kashmir region, like Basmati rice is grown in R.S. Pura region of Jammu whereas apples are mainly produced in Kashmir valley. So, we can say climate is different for both divisions of UT. In Kashmir we have Temperature climate & in Jammu we have Subtropical climate. The hilly areas of both the division’s are growing Maize under rainfed conditions. We have scope for Wheat cultivation in Rabi season but here we need early maturing wheat varieties so that Rice can be grown well on time.
Now in modern times, people are practising Lavender cultivation for high quality oil production used in scents and perfumes. It is worth mentioning here that 1Kg of Lavender oil costs 15000-20000 Rupees. So I am of the opinion that we must promote lavender cultivation where it is having great potential. There is also scope for Kala Zeera cultivation in Gurez region of Bandipora district of Kashmir valley.
There is also scope for cultivation of rose plants for oil purposes. It is worth mentioning that 1Kg of Rose oil costs around four lakh rupees. But here government must ensure marketing and industrial facilities to the growers in the areas having good scope. The rose oil is used in scents and perfumes.
Now coming to vegetable production, the UT is having immense potential for vegetable production under natural as well as under protected conditions. We have seen that vegetable growers are producing vegetables even during off season due to the availability of green houses. In Budgam and many other districts, vegetable growers are producing vegetables in large quantities under natural as well as greenhouse conditions. Even every family of UT is producing vegetables to sustain family needs.
I am highlighting the scope of Organic farming in vegetable production. We can produce vegetables by organic means without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This can be done by use of organic manures like FYM and Vermicompost. Organically produced vegetables are beneficial for health than vegetables produced using chemical fertilizers. The worth mentioning point here is that organic manures are easily available and can be produced at home at lower cost. So this way farmers can earn more by investing less. In serious effort towards organic farming in Jammu & Kashmir UT, government declared Bungund village of Pulwama district as the model village for producing vegetables without chemicals and pesticides.
With the same pace, almonds, walnuts, pears, peaches are cultivated in many areas of UT J &K. So educated youth can move towards agriculture as a whole by starting their own enterprises and can generate employment to others in need.
We have a great potential for apple production. Farmers are growing many varieties of apple viz. Delicious, Gala varieties, Kulu (Royal Delicious), Ambri, & MM series cultivars. Now in the present times, many farmers are moving towards High Density Planting apple varieties. The best advantage of HDP is that it gives fruits early and farmers can earn revenue without waiting for six years. In order to increase income of farmers, government of J & K has already started Market Intervention Scheme for apple marketing. I am of the opinion that in every district of Kashmir valley, Govt. must establish fruit mandis for easy marketing of fruits and benefit for farmers.
Our UT produces a good quality of saffron which is famous throughout the world. Saffron is mostly produced in karewas of Pampore and it has been recently awarded Geographical Indication (GI) tag with a documentation number of 635. So, in Jammu and Kashmir agriculture has got tremendous opportunities for good economic growth. The present situation is very bad and people are moving to other professions. The land conversion practices are common and agricultural land is reducing day by day. The agriculture in J &K is losing potential and this reduces contribution of agriculture towards UT GDP year after year. My point at last is that people must involve themselves in agricultural practices to sustain family as well as UT needs. Land conversion practices must be avoided and laws must be framed.
Lets support growers, lets promote agriculture and lets be among employment givers.
Rafiq Ahmad Mengnoo hailing from Vatterhall Kokernag is M.Sc. Genetics and Plant Breeding, SKUAST-KASHMIR, can be reached at email@example.com