Shimla, Aug 21: Move over nutritionists for men and women. Here comes a nutrition expert for fruit-bearing plants who helps growers in Himachal Pradesh reap bumper high quality harvests.
A state government-run scheme now analyses the leaves of various fruit plants and figures out the quantity of micro contents such as iron, manganese, copper and zinc, and major nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, calcium and magnesium in them.
On the basis on this analysis, the scheme offers consultancy about the volume of fertiliser to be used.
Horticulture is a vital sector in the state's economy as it generates more than Rs.3,200 crore ($525 million) annual income. Apples alone constitute about 93 percent of the state's total fruit produce.
Besides apples, fruits like cherries, pears, peaches, apricots, kiwis, strawberries, olives, almonds and plums are the sate's major commercial crops.
The scheme comes at a time when the horticulture department estimates that due to adverse climatic conditions, apple production this season will be 25-30 percent lower than last year's bumper production of over 32.2 million boxes. Each box contains 22 kg of the fruit.
"The growers will get high yields and high quality crop by adopting this service," a government spokesperson told IANS, adding this will boost their bottom lines.
Under the scheme, five fruit plant nutrition laboratories have been set up in the state at Shimla, Kotkhai and Thanedhar in Shimla district, Dharamsala in Kangra district and Bajaura in Kullu district.
Two drying and grinding units - one in Rekong Peo in Kinnaur district and the second Bharmour in Chamba district - have also been set up. These laboratories can analyse 25,000 samples of leaves.
In 2013-14, a target of analysing 12,000 samples of leaves was fixed. During this period, 12,199 samples were collected from across the state and 7,756 orchardists benefited from the results of the analysis.
In Shimla district alone, 2,028 samples were studied.
Till June this year, 3,871 samples have been collected.
The apple harvesting generally begins in July and continues till November.