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A Ph.D. Scholar from Shopian District is Running Awareness Campaign for Apple Growers

Jammu and Kashmir is renowned globally for apples. Over 3 million people in Kashmir earn a living from the apple industry, which generates an income of around Rs. 8,000 crores for the state. 75% of the apples grown in India are from Kashmir. This state exports about 20 lakh metric tons of apples every year. Thus, the apple industry plays an important role in the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. Therefore, for this state to achieve economic growth, this industry should flourish.

Dr. Syed Sami-Ullah Simnani, a Ph.D. scholar from Shopian district, J&K, has recognized this crucial link and started an awareness campaign for apple growers in his state. Through the campaign, Dr. Sami-Ullah intends to introduce the orchardists in Kashmir to scientific technologies in horticulture and provide information about the advanced methods of growing and harvesting apples.

Dr. Sami-Ullah is native to the Wangam Sudershan Pora area of Shopian. He comes from a middle-class family, which is into the apple business. He has earned a Bachelor’s degree from SKAUST-Jammu and a Master’s in Fruit Sciences from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel University of Agriculture and Technology, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, where he was a university topper. In 2015, he was selected for a Ph.D. in Fruit Science (Horticulture) from SKUAST-K. While pursuing a doctorate, his research topic was ‘Identification of selected apple clonal rootstocks through morphological and molecular approaches.’. Currently, he is working as a Senior Research Fellow (SRF) at ICAR-Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture – CITH in Srinagar. He is working on the project called ‘DUS Centre for Temperate Fruits and Nuts’.

During the final year of his Ph.D., Sami-Ullah started conducting awareness programs about the use of pesticides, fungicides, and other chemicals as well as about new horticulture practices. His goal was to spread awareness among apple growers in his state, understand the problems they faced, and provide solutions.

According to Dr. Sami-Ullah, many orchardists in Kashmir lack sufficient knowledge about the advances in horticulture, which is why they are still using non-scientific methods to grow apples. There is a good scope for apple growers in Kashmir to increase the production and quality of apples and thus achieve economic growth. However, they are lagging behind in business, as they are unaware about the use of technology in horticulture. Dr. Sami-Ullah is of the opinion that most of them are not taking expert advice from SKAUST-K and the Department of Horticulture. He has decided to bridge this gap by spreading awareness over social media.

Initially, Dr. Sami-Ullah used to give tips and advice about using pesticides and fungicides from his own experience, and offer knowledge about spray schedules. Later, he started arranging sessions by experts from SKAUST-K and the Horticulture Department. These sessions cover different aspects of growing apples and aim at providing solutions to the ground-level problems faced by orchardists. Today, he also interacts directly with apple growers in the Kashmir valley. He gets several calls daily where orchardists seek advice on topics such as pesticide use and apple plant diseases, among others.

Dr. Sami-Ullah’s awareness campaigns have garnered a very good response. Most importantly, due to his sessions, an increasing number of apple growers in Kashmir have started approaching SKUAST-K and the Department of Horticulture for expert advice. This has helped them get the right advice as and when required, and saved them from getting deceived by false experts.

Dr. Sami-Ullah believes that the adoption of new technology is crucial to the growth of the apple business in Jammu and Kashmir. Apple growers in Kashmir have to face competition at the local and global levels. Apart from the quality of the fruit, they have to focus on aspects such as packaging and marketing. In the future, use of traditional methods in apple cultivation may not be helpful. If new technology is adopted and scientific methods are used in apple cultivation, apple growers in the valley will definitely earn good profits, and this industry will surely boost the economy of Jammu and Kashmir.

Dr. Sami-Ullah has not stopped at spreading awareness about growing and harvesting apples. He has gone further to identify enhancements in the way this fruit is transported to other parts of the world. He says that many vehicles carrying apples get detained on the roads during the winters. This hampers the quality of the fruit, which is why better means of transport should be adopted. He is also aware of the fact that Kashmir apples should be branded in a better way. He says that the apple growers should identify and use different tags to mark the uniqueness of their apple varieties. This can help increase the sales of Kashmir apples.

This Ph.D. scholar from the Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir is successfully running awareness campaigns for apple cultivators in his state. With the effective use of social media platforms, he is bridging the knowledge gap by establishing a communication link between orchardists and horticulture experts. His initiative is appreciable, as it is sure to have a positive impact on the apple industry in Kashmir.

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