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29th November '2009
KIWIFRUIT in Kashmir
 

Recently there was a news report that the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences has started distributing seeds among local farmers for planting of Kiwifruit in Kashmir. About four years back I had conducted a team from IFFCO, a group of 17 companies dealing in food products in Dubai to the University for seeing the research being done there on fruit and vegetables. During the said visit the team members stumbled upon some Kiwifruit plants and were pleasantly surprised to see these. They asked the Dean of Sciences of the University who was accompanying us, as to how they had planted and grown these as they had not heard India growing Kiwifruit in any part? On being told that the University had developed some hybrid plants and were planning to try its cultivation in Kashmir, they were very much excited. They informed that their company was importing Kiwifruit in large quantities from Italy and New Zealand and then re-exporting to India through Mumbai. During that visit they had also seen some salad dressings which they were importing from Holland for as high as Rs.500 a kilo.

 

Common green kiwis are about the size of an egg and have brown, fuzzy skin on the outside. Slice one open and you'll reveal bright green flesh dotted with an array of tiny black seeds. Green kiwis have a tangy-sweet, refreshing flavour – a mix of strawberry, citrus and melon. Newer gold kiwis look just a bit different on the outside with smooth skin and a hard pointed crown at one end. The flesh of a gold kiwifruit is sunny yellow, and the edible seeds are black to red. Gold kiwifruit tastes tropical-sweet and mellow – a mix of mango and melon flavours. Ripe kiwifruit should be soft to the touch, like a ripe peach or avocado, and can be enjoyed easily by slicing whole fruit in half and scooping out the tasty inside with a spoon, or by using in your favourite fresh fruit recipes, fruit salads, smoothies ... The uses for kiwifruit are limited only by the imagination. Because kiwifruit is so unique, it is always a favourite with kids, who say it "feels funny - tastes great!" Health-conscious teens and adults will appreciate the refreshing burst of nutrition that accompanies every green or gold bite.

There are many sites on the internet giving details about this plant. I am reproducing some extracts for the benefit of potential growers in Kashmir. “The kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa) is native to the Yangtze River valley of northern China and Zhejiang Province on the coast of eastern China. The first seeds were brought out of China by missionaries to New Zealand at the turn of this century. Early nurserymen in New Zealand, such as Alexander Allison, Bruno Just, and Hayward Wright, recognized the potential of the fruit and it soon became a popular backyard vine. Several plants were sent to the Chico Plant Introduction Station in California and exist to this date. In addition to New Zealand and California, kiwifruit is also grown commercially in such areas as Italy, South Africa, and Chile. The plants need a long growing season (at least 240 frost-free days) which will not be hampered by late winter or early autumn freezes. When fully dormant they can withstand temperatures to about 10° F (and perhaps a bit lower.) Seeds from store bought fruit may be planted in the spring. This should be done in a fine, somewhat sandy planter mix which is kept moist but not soaking wet. Seed germinates in 4 to 5 weeks. Plants raised this way will need to be grafted the following season to produce better, known sex, plants. Nursery bought plants are usually either grafted or cutting grown. Both types have their own attributes. One slight advantage of the cutting grown plants would be advantageous to growers in areas that experience winter freeze problems. If a plant is killed to the ground, a cutting grown plant that survives will regrow from the roots and thus maintain its known characteristics. Otherwise, either type is acceptable to backyard growers. Kiwifruit plants are relatively free from problems, possibly due to their lack of heavy planting into areas so that pests begin to take a liking to the leaves, trunk, or roots. One odd problem is the fact that the trunks have a catnip-like aroma which cats love to rub against. When plants are small, this can be a problem as they can rub off any new shoots which emerge in the spring. Garden snails can also be a problem on younger plantings. Other pests include deer browsing on the leaves and gophers attacking the roots. Scale insects can also be a problem if populations build up too extensively. Where present, root-rot nematodes will reduce plant vigour.

 

Ripening depends both on cultivar grown and local climatic conditions. Commercially, the fruit is harvested mature-ripe when its soluble sugars reach 6.5 brix on a refractometer. For the home grower it is best to wait for harvest until at least November 1, but November 15 would be preferable. Seed inside should be fully black by this time. If available, a specifically designed fruit ripening bowl can be used to quickly ripen a few fruit to see if the rest of the crop is ready to be picked. Once harvested, place the hard fruit into plastic bags and put into the refrigerator for keeping. When needed, the fruit can be taken out of the refrigerator and ripened on the counter for a few days in a plastic bag. Well stored fruit can last for several months.”

The initiation of Kiwifruit growing is without doubt a revolutionary step. It shows the tremendous possibilities Kashmir has in the field of horticulture, floriculture and the fisheries especially the trout. If only the Government could sincerely and honestly concentrate on these productive fields instead of the ornamental and the recreational ones, it would create extensive avenues of employment for the youth. Lavender grows in Kashmir in the wild and if properly cultivated and harvested, there could be many factories manufacturing perfumes. There are also hundreds of medicinal plants in the forests. A few of these are used for making medicine to treat some forms of cancer. Kashmir needs a shift of emphasis in planning. Apart from agricultural based industries, there is also ample scope for miniature electronics. It is time the Government accords rightful priority to the sectors which can not only give us huge revenue in foreign exchange but also generate employment for the hundreds of thousands of our youth. There will be many investors willing to come forward and help in these sectors where we can expect 100% buy back of the items produced/grown. Let us hope somebody is willing to act and act soon!

 
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