Srinagar, Dec 20: At a time when farmers in Kashmir are shifting to high density apple orchards, two elderly farmers have shown an innovative agricultural practice to grown cash crops.
Agriculture experts say such innovative farming of cash crops can bring an huge turnaround in agriculture sector in Kashmir.
Abdul Ahad Wani, 74, has started growing 'Nadru' (lotus stem) in his wetlands in Srinagar's outskirts.
The edible lotus stems are only grown in famous Dal and Mansbal lakes in Kashmir but Wani is growing them in wet soil in hilly area of Khonmoh, located at a elevated region in Pampore belt which is famous for saffron.
Wani says the innovative idea of growing Nadru in his land came up when the paddy and maize crops failed to grow as his land always remained waterlogged.
"I consulted experts who suggested me to try growing nadru. Thankfully, my experiment has become successful. My harvest is ready for sale in market."
Wani says he expect more than 10 quintals of nadru from one Kanal of land.
"I will experiment with chestnuts now," he says.
The innovative agriculturalist says that he dug a tube well to keep water available as his area lacks any irrigation facility.
Wani says he sells his produce at Rs 150 per kg in the local market which he could not earn from paddy or maize.
Another innovative agriculturalist is Sopore's Bashir Ahmad War, who has grown kiwis in his land.
War's idea of growing kiwis in apple town Sopore struck when he visited Shimla some years ago.
Sopore is the apple capital of Jammu and Kashmir where all landowners are farming apple. But War is growing kiwis which fetch him more money than apples do.
He says that apple growing needs more manual work and pesticides which increase a farmer's burden when the market is in slump.
"Kiwis utilise lesser pesticides and labour; so a farmer can get more money from this cash crop," he says.
These innovative agriculturalists are winning hearts of the government and experts.
Director Agriculture, Kashmir, Choudhary Iqbal said War and Wani are trend setters in agriculture sector of Kashmir and experimenting new practices.
"Agriculture department always encourages such farmers and is available for them to facilitate growing cash crops rather than old traditional practices," he says.
He says that modern and innovative agricultural practices lessen the burden of farmers for pesticides and labour.
"Kashmir's fertile soil is suited for many cash crops which can enrich farmers and they can become employment generators rather than look for livelihood," he says.