Horticulture is the practical implementation of the science of botany in gardens inclusive of both the landscaping aspect of gardens and augmentation of the growth of different agricultural products of gardens like ornamental plants, fruits, flowers and vegetables. A horticulturist essentially conducts research and development on the above mentioned aspects of a garden to improve the quality as well as the quantity of the garden products.
Launched under the 10th Five Year Plan (2005-2006), the National Horticulture Mission (NHM) was a program of the Government of India to promote horticulture in India with the following objectives:
- Enhance development of horticulture in our country and expanding related activities to the fullest so that maximum tapping of the horticultural resources is possible through the advanced growth of all such products namely crops, vegetables, fruits, spices, flowers and medicinal and aromatic plantations
- Implementation of an area specific approach for the comprehensive growth of the horticulture sector
- To increase the horticulture productions in general which in turn will reflect on the enhanced financial security and nutritional aspects of population engaged in different sectors of horticulture
- To enhance coordination and collaboration amongst the ongoing multiple programs with the common goal of development of the horticultural sector
- To enhance production of the horticultural sector through a successful combination of time tested practices and modern technologies in this field
- Horticultural sector is an employment intensive sector. The plans outlined in the NHM aimed at providing employment opportunities especially for the unemployed youths, not to mention inclusion of skilled and unskilled labour
- The horticulture sector is also an export oriented sector. The overall development of this sector will also ensure an increase in exports from this sector
Current ongoing activities under NHM:
Since our country is an agriculture based country, the NHM so far has been an ongoing and pro farmers program which has successfully boosted the horticultural sector of our country. The NHM is also witnessing a lot of investitures to promote the said sector and also for damage control due to adverse weather conditions. One recent example is the approval of a grant of Rs 256 crore exclusively for the revitalization for the aridity stricken orchards in Maharashtra. The grant has been sanctioned by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Drought, Chaired by the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. In a statement to the PTI, Sharad Pawar declared, “The proposal on providing additional assistance of Rs 256 crore to protect orchards in drought hit Maharashtra has been approved.” The total grant inclusive of the additional grant amounting to over Rs 400 crore has already been sanctioned under NHM. The sanction has been implemented through an exclusive program envisaged last month (August, 2013) designed for the damage control in the aridity affected orchards of Maharashtra. Under this program while the Centre bears fifty percent of the expenditure for the revitalization of the orchards, the rest of the necessary costs will be borne by the farmers.
In yet another instance to promote the horticultural sector, a grant of Rs 75 crore has been ratified for the state of Punjab to support the State Government’s aspirations of expansion and variegation of its agricultural sector through the implementation of the ‘Agriculture Diversification’ Plan. The blueprint for the Agriculture Diversification Plan has been drawn up by the State Horticultural department under NHM and the approval of the grant was secured by the Union Agriculture Ministry. As confirmed by a spokesperson of the Chief Ministers Office, the available funds will be implemented for multifarious purposes like establishment and maintenance of new orchards, apiculture and floriculture, not to mention improvement of the general infrastructure which includes setting up of new green house facilities, storage facilities and packaging hubs.
Conscious attempts were already in place to improve the general framework of conservancy of vegetables and fruits. The said ambitious attempts are inclusive of a plan of establishing a ‘Centre of Excellence for Vegetables’ at Kartarpur, Jalandhar District (with a budget of Rs 9.73 crore) and a ‘Centre of Excellence for Citrus’ at Khanaura, Hoshiarpur District (with a budget of Rs 10.3 crore). The attempts are being orchestrated by the Punjab Mandi Board in accordance with the Indo-Israel understanding. Under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojna (RKVY), farmers are being supplied with plastic crates (budget Rs 150 lakh) for enhanced preservation of fruits and vegetables which in turn will result in an extended shelf life. Under the RKVY plan an auxiliary plan called ‘National Vegetables Initiative’ (NVI) is also effective in districts like Jalandhar and Ludhiana. All these form an integral part of the NHM.
Adverse climatic conditions of extremely hot summer and the prolonged monsoon season this year has heavily affected the orange cultivation in Nagpur almost destroying the entire crop. Accumulation of water in the orchards has unleashed a bunch of problems for the citrus crop like acute fungal infection and a variety of pests. Mr M S Ladaniya, Director of National Research Center for Citrus (NRCC) and the mission leader, Technology Mission on Citrus (for Chhindwara, Vidarbha, and Marathwada) under NHM, is also an expert in rendering best protection to the crops. According to his opinion, “We issue regular advisory to the farmers. September is a crucial month for following best cultivation practices. This year farmer needs to be more vigilant and should be on the look for fungal and other disease. High humidity and water logging invite a lot of diseases and pests. And if proper care is not taken, it may also lead to the extreme situations with the orchards dying”.
Underlining the necessity of a better drainage system for the orchards to prevent water logging, Ladaniya further added, “The first important operation that the orange growers should take is necessary tillage operations if there are no rains. Weeds should be uprooted from the tree basin. And instead of flooding the tree bottom, a double ring should be prepared around the tree for irrigation. In case of drip irrigation, the laterals should be spread and only measured amount of water as per requirement of plant should be given”. In short NRCC’s advice to the orange farmers of Nagpur to bail out of this adverse situation is to provide better drainage for the orchards and arrest water logging.
During every Five Year Plan a number of developmental programs are hatched by the Government. In reality only a few are actualized, most of them gets stagnated halfway owing to fund shortage, lack of manpower and proper coordination. However, NHM is a program that has been consistent in improving the horticultural sector of our country for nearly a decade now. The sub programs under NHM are also proving to be pro-farmers and extremely useful. We need more consistent and developmental programs in place like the NHM for the enhanced growth of our country.