Apple (Malus domestica Borkh) is grown commercially in temperate and cold arid zones of Jammu and Kashmir state at an altitude ranging from 1560-4200 mt. ASL. Apple cultivation constitutes an important component of state's economy. Apple is one of the most cultivated and consumed fruits in the world, being praised as a miracle food. There is an old Welsh proverb "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away" that most of us are familiar with, indicating the significance of consuming apple. Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids, dietary fibre, vitamins and other nutritive substances .Apple is the principle fruit crop of Jammu and Kashmir and accounts for about 49 per cent of total area of 1.63 lac hectares under all temperate fruits grown in this state. The annual apple production in the state is 17.27 lac M. tons (2016-17). Average yield of commercially important apple cultivars per unit area is the highest in the country ranging between 11-13 M. tons/ha, but it compares poorly to the yields of 20-30 M. tons/ha in horticulturally advanced counties of the world.
Alternate bearing, defective pruning and training, use of seedling rootstock of unknown performance, lack of proper nutrient and water management, deficiency of suitable pollinizers/pollinators and ineffective control of insect pests and diseases are the main causes of low productivity which effect the qualitatively and quantitatively apple fruit production. Among these various factors we will here discuss about the control of insects and diseases which hamper in the production of quality fruits. For the control of various key pests associated with the apple tree, a spray schedule is being prepared by Directorate of Research, SKUAST-K, Shalimar every year and with the help Directorate of Extension, SKUAST-K, Shalimar and Department of Horticulture, Kashmir reaches to farming community.
Need for preparing a spray schedule for apple in Kashmir
With the intensification of apple cultivation there has been considerable
increase in insect pest and disease infestation to apple crop in the state. The pest complex of apple includes a wide range of species with diverse habits. A number of arthropod pests viz., 39 on apple have been recognised, which on the basis of their importance and prevalence could be classified as major and minor pests, perennial pests, key or serious pests. The major pests which are associated with the apple include San Jose scale, Woolly apple aphid, European red mite, Apple stem borer, Hairy caterpillar, Apple aphid, Bark beetle, White grubs and Blossom Thrips. These suck the sap from leaves, branches and twigs, produce knots and galls on limbs and roots and also damage roots, damage leaves by feeding on them, damage roots and bark, damage the blossom, produce scars on the fruits and help in the penetration of some weak pathogens causing plant diseases (European red mite help Alterneria mali to produce Alterneria leaf blotch). Among these sucking pests viz., San Jose scale, Woolly apple aphid and European red mite constitute a serious challenge to pest management because of their substantial damage imposed by them on the crop owing to their feeding habits. Among the major diseases which are regularly associated with the apple include Apple scab, Alterneria leaf blotch, Marssonina leaf blotch, Powdery mildew, Sooty blotch and Flyspeck. These diseases suppress the chlorophyll content, reduce the leaf area, curb the movement of solutes and water through the stems, reduce the water-absorbing capacity of the roots, suppress the translocation of photosynthesis and affect the fruit quality and quantity in different ways.
These pests inflict huge losses upon horticulture in terms of alleviated production, reduced quality and cost of management. The loss in the yield and impairment in quality warrants adopting measures for controlling these pests and diseases in the orchards. Often times, preventative and curative sprays are needed in certain times of the year for the management of certain pests and diseases. Apple being cash crop, farmers have found an easy mode to control insects and diseases through pesticides. With that in mind, it is important to prepare a tree spray schedule which guides the farmers of the valley to select the suitable pesticide for controlling the pests (insects, mites and diseases) at different tree stages. The use of spray schedule thus helps them to protect the trees and keep them healthy and productive for a long time. The pesticides listed in the spray schedule, whether it is a fungicide, insecticide etc. contains chemicals that kill and reduce the pests (fungi, insects and mites). Due to their efficacy, convenience and economy, these chemicals minimise the pest damage and thus play a vital role in raising the qualitative and quantitative fruit production of apple.
Some important features of spray schedule are:
i) There is a good choice for the use of various chemicals (fungicides, insecticides, oils and acaricides) at a particular tree stage.
ii) The schedule is being devised to cover the major pests (disease, insects and mites) of apple in Kashmir.
iii) The dosage of every chemical is clearly shown in the schedule.
iv) The chemical and trade names of the recommended pesticides are available in the schedule.
v) The schedule is being devised in a very simple manner.
vi) Various Do,s and Do not,s are being kept in the schedule which can be very helpful for the orchardists.
vii) The schedule ensures a full coverage and effective tree spraying program especially for pests and diseases that seem to be quite resistant in single spraying.
viii) Most of these infestations are treatable through an effective tree spraying program.
ix) There is mention of proper timing for spraying of pesticides to control different pests infesting the crop at different stages.
x) The schedule can be easily obtained every year from SKUAST-K, Shalimar and Directorate of Horticulture, Srinagar .
Author is Assistant Professor cum Jr.Scientist Division of Entomology, SKUAST-K, Shalimar.