Marhama: Introduction of a new apple variety, Washington Super Chief, by Ghulam Nabi Bhat, an orchard owner from this south Kashmir’s village has inspired many growers for its cultivation.
Bhat, a resident of Marhama village in Anantnag district, has set an example by managing seven graft sticks of Washington Supper Chief from USA in 2013 and developing an excellent orchard spiraling over six kanals of karewa land.
This progressive grower has a great knack for apple and he came to know about Washington Super Chief in a Delhi Mandi thirteen years ago. “In 2009, I was in Delhi in connection with my fruit business and I saw this apple at a Mandi. I was fascinated to see its colour and price,” he recalls.
From then on, it took Bhat nearly three years to get three sticks of this variety at a whopping price. “The cost was high but my interest in this apple was even bigger”, he said.
After procuring the sticks, Bhat produced several apple trees of Washington Supper Chief before planting the same on a large scale.
The biggest challenge before him was to see if the new variety could grow conveniently in his area.
A 4th class dropout, Bhat gathered extensive information about the soil of his land where he intended to grow the apple. He is well acquainted with scientific terms like Ph Value and acidic nature of soil and its implications on plant growth.
This enthusiastic grower eventually got 80 wild apple trees grafted with new variety and the fruit they produced this year has inspired many orchard owners.
Seeing the apple attractive in colour and price it fetches, hundreds of orchardists have now approached Bhat for the sticks for grating purpose.
He has registered 400 names and an equal number is on the waiting list. He has stopped booking for graft sticks now.
“This man has the guts to grow apple after carrying out whatever affordable research on it. He is a grower with a difference. The new variety attests to his courage and determination,” Aadil Ahmad, a grower said.
Bhat is satisfied with the rate at which his apple was sold. “The crop was disfigured due to hailstorm this year that downgraded its quality. Still it fetched me the best price,” he said.
For apple cultivation Bhat prefers organic fertilizers over chemicals. “So far as my experience is concerned, organic fertilizers are best suited for apple. It saves root system from damage and keeps a tree healthy. I have completely shunned using chemical fertilizers,” he said.
Many growers from Bhat’s area believe that he has grown gold out of Banjar (infertile land).