Dr. Hari C Sharma
Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry,
Nauni, Solan (HP) INDIA
Himachal Pradesh occupies an area of 55,673 km2 and has a population size of 68.56 lacs. In Himachal Pradesh, Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni, Solan (HP) established on 1st December, 1985 is fully determined to undertake quality teaching, research and extension for socio-economic development of farming community. The university has been able to generate production-cum-protection technologies in different areas of horticulture and forestry which resulted in enhancing the productivity of fruits, vegetables, flowers, medicinal and aromatic plants and forest based fruits in the state. It can be witnessed by the fact that in Himachal Pradesh, the area under apple crop has increased from 3,025 hectares in 1960-61 to 1.04 lakh hectares in 2011-12 which is more than 48% of the total area under fruit production. Similarly, production of apple has increased from 12,000 tonnes in 1960-61 to a record of 8.92 lakh tonnes in 2010-11. The apple industry contributes about Rs. 3600 crores annually to the state economy thus transforming the economic status of farmers. Sub-tropical fruits viz., mango, litchi and guava occupy areas of 38,444 ha, 4060 ha and 2236 ha with productions of 38,751 MT, 3363 MT and 2426 MT, respectively. Due to climate change, there has been a shift in fruit cultivation. Farmers have shifted to crop diversification by planting pomegranate in place of apple in mid hill areas of Himachal Pradesh. Pomegranate occupies an area of 1085 ha with a production of 475 MT during 2009-10. Besides, low chilling varieties of apple are being grown in low hills of the state. Himachal Pradesh has made a significant progress on the vegetable map of the country. Area under vegetables has increased from 28,000 ha in 1990-91 to 65,000 ha and production from 6.5 lakh tonnes to 12.69 lakh tonnes. The area under flower crops has increased to 813 ha during 2011-12 out of which 89 ha area is under protected cultivation.
Himachal Pradesh is blessed with varied agro-climatic zones ranging from subtropical to high altitude cold deserts and has a vast potential for successful cultivation of a wide range of horticultural crops. Mango and citrus fruits are main fruit crops cultivated in the low hill zone. Besides these fruits, litchi, papaya, pomegranate, guava, aonla and strawberry are also successfully grown. In the mid hill zone, in addition to stone fruits like peach, plum and apricot, the cultivation of fruits like kiwi, olive, pecan nut and strawberry can also be successfully undertaken. In the high hill wet temperate zone, besides apple, pear and cherry, there is a vast potential for growing walnut and hazelnut. Similarly, in the high hill dry temperate zone, in addition to the existing apple, almond, apricot, walnut and grapes, there is a great potential for successful cultivation of pear and pistachionut. In fruit crops, enhancement of productivity and improvement of quality would be brought about through the introduction and development of regular bearing, high-yielding and good quality varieties and generating improved technologies such as high density planting, integrated orchard management practices, weather forecasting and warning systems in horticulture management and integrated pest and disease management.
In vegetable crops, priority would be given to the development of early maturing disease and insect pest resistant hybrid varieties of tomato, bell pepper, cucumber, cabbage and cauliflower. The standardization of protected cultivation technology of traditional vegetables like tomato, capsicum and cucumber in mid hills and cabbage and cauliflower in high hills would go a long way in improving socio-economic conditions of the farmers. Work on rare vegetables such as parsley, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, red cabbage and Swiss chard will be intensified. In floriculture, emphasis would be focused on the development of improved varieties of rose, chrysanthemum, carnation, gladiolus and lilium and hybrid varieties of marigold and China aster. The standardization of agro-techniques, including protected cultivation technology of carnation, chrysanthemum, gerbera, iris, Alstroemeria, rose and lilium would be accorded priority to improve the yield and quality of flowers and to regulate flowering.
In postharvest technology, priority would be given to standardize appropriate grading, packing and storage technologies. Special attention would be paid to value addition and packaging technology for horticultural crops having export potential. Emphasis would also be laid on standardization of processing technology for the production of health foods for domestic and export markets.
The forest sector plays a dominant role in the economy of Himachal Pradesh. Forests of Himachal Pradesh are plagued by low productivity, deforestation, loss of diversity and overall environmental degradation. For the conservation and improvement of the forest resources, the university is actively engaged in human resource development and generation of mountain-specific technologies for the augmentation of valuable natural resource. In tree improvement and genetic resources include eco-restoration of degraded forests, production of genetically superior fast growing strains, development of seed orchards and survey of forest genetic resources. The important commercial and agroforestry trees on which genetic improvement work is in progress are chirpine, khair, poplars, chilgoza, deodar, toon, willows, biul, bamboos, seabuckthorn and harar. Research on selection and testing of plus trees, establishment of seed and steckling orchards, hybridization, propagation, micropropagation, molecular characterization and genetic transformation is being intensified. Poplar clones for various agro-climatic zones of the state have been recommended and the improved stock is being supplied to the people. In silvicultural research, the emphasis is on rejuvenation of degraded uplands, stress sites and mined areas; development of agroforestry models, afforestation techniques and planting geometry; productivity of forest stands; inventory of bird and wild life species; seed and nursery technology; rangeland improvement and watershed development. Research efforts are focused mainly on high altitude conifers, chirpines, biul, morus, reetha, robinia, elm, wattles etc. and improved grasses like orchard grass, setaria, fescue and reed canary grass.
The non-wood forest products like resin, katha, medicinal herbs are an important source of income to the rural poor and yield many bio-compounds for drug development. Himachal Pradesh is a rich repository of valuable bio-resources and it is planned to focus research on survey, domestication, germplasm screening, development of agropractices, chemical extraction of alkaloids and genetic improvement of important medicinal plants. Research efforts will be strengthened on extraction techniques of resin, katha, forest seed oils, gums, dyes etc. Herbal gardens shall also be maintained for demonstration and bringing about awareness among public for the conservation of medicinal and aromatic plants. Research is mainly focused on Valeriana jatamansi, Gloriosa superba, Solanum laciniatum, Mentha spicata, Picrorhiza kurroa, Gentiana kurroo, Bunnium persicum, Viola sp., Matricaria chamomilla, Salvia sclarea, Rosemarinus officinalis etc.
Our future thrust areas will include introduction of elite varieties of fruit crops with high yield potential, development of superior hybrids in vegetables and flowers, exploitation of genetic male sterility, gynoeceous lines and tagging the elite gene for development of hybrids. Molecular tools viz., Marker Assisted Selection and QTLs, introgression of desirable gene responsible for economically important traits etc. will be undertaken to enhance the productivity of horticultural crops. Rootstock research in different horticultural crops will be made to improve production besides efforts in research on canopy architecture, nutritional uptake, flowering, yield and fruit quality as well as combating stresses due to soilborne pathogens. Off-season crop production under protected conditions will be taken up as the best alternative of land use systems. Nutrient deficiency and unbalanced use of nutrients seem to be one of the major causes of low productivity. Therefore, understanding soil carbon and nutrient stocks as well as soil microbiota are our research priority areas. Research efforts will also be made on bio-remediation of polluted water. Advanced training in research methodologies and instrumentation, biotechnology and genetic engineering, micro-irrigation, fertigation, Weather Forecasting and Warning Systems in Agriculture / Horticulture Management, Integrated Pest Management, Integrated Nutrient Management, biofertilizers, biopesticides, pesticide residue, Postharvest Technology and product development need priority attention for increasing research capabilities of the scientists. Skill development through in-service training will enhance capabilities of extension staff. These efforts will ensure economic prosperity, ecological sustainability and nutritional security in the fragile hills of Himachal Pradesh.
Dr. Hari C Sharma