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Despite huge market; Organic vegetable cultivation a nonstarter in Kashmir

Srinagar, Feb 22: Concerns about the chemical fertilizers notwithstanding, Jammu and Kashmir is yet to adopt much safer organic farming model for the vegetable cultivation.
Data of Ministry of Agriculture and farmers’ welfare reveal that 2.38 per cent of net sown area of the Union Territory is under the organic vegetable cultivation.
Jammu and Kashmir has a 7.35 lakh hectares of land under vegetable cultivation. Of which 17558.76 hectares of the land is under organic vegetable cultivation.
Under Central Government’s National Program of Organic Produce, 7444.13 hectares of land is to be brought under the organic vegetable farming in next few years.

J&K lags behind Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odhisa and Uttar Pradesh where 19232.89, 379996.68, 110240.21, 73124.10 and 44802.36 hectares of land respectively are under the organic vegetable cultivation.
Citing a research by Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), Union Ministry of Agriculture said that a slightly higher yield can be obtained in Kharif and summer crops under organic farming. It said for Rabi crops, the yield stabilizes after five years.
The research said the organic method of cultivation improves soil fertility by minimizing the use of external inputs through recycling thereby reducing input costs of the farmer and increasing his returns.
According to a document of the Department of Soil Science, SKAUST, commonly used fertilizers including Urea, Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), Muriate of Potash (MOP) have serious side effects.
“These fertilizers help in forming strong root systems and develop flowers or fruit. However, they get washed out with rain and irrigation. When phosphorus and nitrate levels rise in water bodies, aquatic plants such as algae and floating weeds, can grow out of control,” reads the document.
Javed Ahmad Wani, Agriculture Officer, Khansahab sub-division in Budgam district, said farmers are unaware of the organic farming concept.
“This type of farming is popular in Europe and Gulf. In Kashmir farmers are not aware of organic farming and even don’t know about the hazards of chemical fertilizers. Organic farming cannot be an individual initiative. It requires a collective approach”, he said
Director, Agriculture Department Kashmir Altaf Aijaz Andrabi said the department has brought around 1000 hectares of agricultural land under organic farming.
“Fifty hectares of land each in Pulwama and Baramulla have been brought under organic farming. The entire produce from these two places is sold outside Kashmir. We are working to bring more land under organic farming in the rest of Kashmir. There is a huge market for organic vegetables,” he said.