A fruit grower from India with no scientific background has developed a new variety of apple (APS) with better colour, improved size and longer shelf life by grafting imported root stock on local seedling, followed by inter-stocking and multiple grafting.
Breaking the myth that small land holdings are a bane of hill farmers, Prem Singh Chauhan has turned his one hectare into a money spinner by raising over 10,000 plants — 8,000 of apple and over 2,000 of stone fruits. He has used the concept of ultra-high density plantation in which plants are allowed to grow only vertically up to a maximum height of 8 feet and the plants are separated by a distance of three feet. The key to managing such dense plantation lies in the technique for pruning plants.Harvesting is at its peak and the apple-laden orchard located on the left bank of the Giri in Jaltahar village at a height of 1700 metres stands out for the quality of fruit.
He has been growing spur varieties of apples of self-developed APS, red volex, schlet spur, jeromine, oregon II, super chief, scarlet spur II, red chief, granny smith, gala varieties, golden gibson and critarion, besides the traditional royale delicious variety. Chauhan, who took over the management of his orchard to improve production in 2001, initially experimented with the imported root stock but it did not yield the desired outcome. Thereafter, he took the inter-stocking and multiple grafting route and after experimenting for over a decade, he finally came up with the product. The output from his one hectare orchard is more than 2,500 boxes against the normal output of 250-500 boxes per hectare.“My approach has been based on the basic principle that the plant must not gather wood and maximum part of its nutrient intake should get converted into fruit.
The aim is to take just one box of apple per plant and the orchard will produce 8,000 boxes in times to come”, he says, adding that, “I am no scientist, but I closely observe the changes happening on plants as a result of his experiments.”
He has also used innovative methods to make the optimum use of the land, giving a new dimension to orchard scaping, the terraced fields were converted into slopes to ensure that the water is not stagnant, waste lands have been cultivated and plants have been raised even on edges by drawing offshoots of roots from gaps in stone masonry walls and grafting. He has turned the difficult hill topography into an advantage and now other farmers of the area were adopting his techniques to manage their orchards.Rejuvenating old orchards is a daunting, time-consuming, costly and cumbersome task but Chauhan has demonstrated that it could be done smoothly grafting old trees with new varieties and at the same time planting new varieties adopting the ultra-high density plantation technique.Director Horticulture Dr DP Bhangalia and a team of scientists from the Regional Horticulture Research and Training Station (RHRTS), Mashobra, visited the farm last week and Chauhan has applied for registration of the variety developed by him under the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers’ Rights Act. The registration has been applied under denomination APS in the category of the vegetatively propagated variety. Chauhan’s farm is not only an eye opener for farmers of the state, the way he has ensured the optimum utilisation of land is incredible and the practice of single stem vertical ultra-high density plantation would usher in a new era of prosperity for apple growers.The process of registration of the variety was under way and it had to be certified by horticulture university, he said, adding that the silverline for apple farming was that the Horticulture Minister and principal secretary both were progressive farmers. The scientists of RHRTS said the plants were four or five years old and they would have to watch for their long-term sustainability. Chauhan bagged 25 out of the total 51 prizes in apple festival last year.