The apple is one of the oldest and most important temperate fruits, ranking fourth among the world’s most-produced fruits after oranges, bananas, and grapes. China leads as the largest apple producer globally. In India, apples are primarily grown in Kashmir, the hills of Uttar Pradesh, and Himachal Pradesh.
However, apple cultivation has expanded to Nagaland, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya. While most apples are enjoyed fresh, a small portion is processed into jellies, juices, canned slices, and candies.
Climate Required For Apple Farming
Apple trees grow best at altitudes between 1,500 meters and 2,700 meters in the Himalayan range. They need about 1,000 to 1,500 hours of cold weather during winter. During the apple growing season, temperatures of about 21°C to 24°C work well.
For good growth and fruiting, they need 100 cm to 125 cm of rainfall each year, evenly spread out. Too much rain or fog during fruit maturity can lead to poor fruit quality, improper colour, and fungal spots on the fruit. Places with strong winds aren’t suitable for apple cultivation.
For apple farming, loamy soil rich in organic matter with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5 is essential. The soil should possess good drainage to prevent waterlogging. Additionally, using a suitable tractor like the Solis tractor and Farmtrac India can aid in soil preparation and maintenance for optimal apple cultivation.
For Apple propagation, budding and tongue grafting methods are used, and planting material should be obtained from registered nurseries and handled with care during transport. The best time for planting apples is in January and February.
In Apple farming, the number of plants per hectare can range from 200 to 1250. Planting densities vary, classified as low, moderate, high, or ultra-high density based on the number of plants per hectare. The spacing between apple plants depends on the scion and rootstock variety combination.
Planting Method in Apple Farming
In the valleys, farmers use the hexagonal or square planting method, while on the slopes, they follow the contour method. To ensure proper apple fruit growth, it’s essential to plant pollinator species among the main apple trees. For the Royal Delicious variety, planting Golden Delicious and Red Delicious as pollinators is recommended by the Horticulture Department.
From October to November, pits of size 1 meter x 1 meter x 1 meter are dug for planting. In each pit, 30 to 40 kilograms of Farm Yard Manure (FYM) are added after mixing well. Along with that, 500 grams of Single Superphosphate are incorporated. Additionally, 50 grams of Malathion dust are added. After this thorough mixing, one irrigation is done immediately after planting.
Manures and Fertilization in Apple farming
Each year, 10 kilograms of Farm Yard Manure (FMY) is applied for each year of the tree’s age, along with other fertilisers. For an orchard with ideal fertility, the ratio of K, P, and N applied annually per tree’s age is 70:35:70 grams. Once the tree reaches 10 years old, the stabilised dose becomes 700:350:700 grams of K, P, and N per year.
During ‘off’ years, when crop yield is low, the standard fertilizer dose is reduced to 400 grams of K, 250 grams of P, and 500 grams of N, respectively. For any deficiencies in boron, zinc, manganese, and calcium, appropriate fertilizers should be used.
Intercultural Operations and Weed control in Apple farming:
Using glyphosate at a rate of 800 ml per hectare or Gammaxone/Paraquat (0.5%) as a post-emergence herbicide can eliminate weed growth for 4 to 5 months.
Irrigation/Water supply in Apple farming:
For watering apple farms: Apple farming needs around 115 cm of irrigation each year, divided into 14 to 20 watering sessions. During summer, water should be given every 6 to 10 days, and in winter, it’s best every 3 to 4 weeks. From April to August, the critical period after fruit set, at least 8 watering sessions are needed.
Training and pruning in Apple farming:
Timely training and pruning activities are required for proper growth and good-quality of apples. The apple plants are trained as per the growth habit and vigour of the rootstocks.
The standard apple trees are trained on a modified central leader system to receive proper light. This improves apple fruit colour and also minimises the effect of heavy snowfall and hail. The spindle bush system is best suited for high-density apple planting under mid-hill conditions.
Inter cultivation in Apple Farming
Early in apple planting, growing green manure crops such as beans and sunflowers can enhance soil quality and nutrients.
Mulching in Apple Farming
Using oak leaves or dry grass effectively retains soil moisture in apple farming.
Pests and Diseases in Apple Farming
Common pests like woolly apple aphid, San Jose scale, blossom thrips, and white scale affect apple orchards. Methods like planting resistant rootstocks and applying fenitrothion, chloropyriphos, or carbaryl help control pests.
Major diseases in apple farming include apple scab, collar rot, crown gall, sclerotius blight, cankers, and die-back diseases. Using disease-resistant apple plants and eliminating infected parts are crucial. Fungicides like carbendazim, copper oxychloride, and mancozeb aid in disease control.
Apple Tree Productivity: Apple trees start bearing fruit from the 8th year. Their productivity increases from the 8th to the 17th year and remains constant for up to 30 years, varying with the elevation. Apple trees can live up to 40 years, depending on the climate. Apples are usually harvested before they are fully ripe.
Average Yield: Different apple varieties in areas like Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh yield around 11 to 13 tonnes per hectare. However, in Uttaranchal state, the yield is lower, around 5 to 6 tonnes per hectare.
Pre-Cooling: Apples are kept in a cool, ventilated place to remove field heat before packing. The apple surface must be dry before grading, wrapping, and packing.
Storage: Apples have a longer storage life compared to other fruits. They can be stored for 4 to 8 months in cold storage at around 1 to 0 degrees Celsius and 85-90% humidity.
Apple farming offers a promising venture for regions like the Himalayan range, thriving within specific altitudes and climatic conditions. With careful attention to fruit drop challenges, harvesting practices, and post-harvest management, it’s possible to optimise yields and storage longevity.
The success of apple farming not only relies on suitable climates but also precise handling during various growth stages and post-harvest procedures. Achieving a balance between these factors can ensure a fruitful and sustainable apple farming industry in these regions, possibly benefiting from suitable machinery like Farmtrac India equipment.