To understand the complete phenomenon of apple economy, it is necessary to know the steps of horticulture i.e. production, plucking, packing and sale. The owner of the orchard faces many hardships in the process of growing apples in order to get the maximum output. The owner has to take more pains at the time of plucking, packing, transporting and selling it at different markets. In non-productive seasons i.e. from October to March, they just have to irrigate their orchards.
In Zandra, there are three types of land i.e. land prepared by flood water, plain land and stony land. Plain land is artificially prepared and its preparation involves a complete process. The owner of the land has to bear numerous hardships and invest money to convert a stony land into an apple orchard. First of all he has to remove the stones and level the land with the help of bulldozer. Then he has to fill it up with mud brought from the dam. After leveling the ground, trees are planted at a distance of 24, 27 or 30 feet from each other in rows. Normally the plantation is done in March or December because in these months more water is available as the schedule of karez is suspended and anybody can use water at any time.
For better production of fruit, grafting and budding of trees is done in two different ways.
1. Tee Budding
2. Ring Budding
For “Tee” budding, ‘T’ shaped cut is given on the stem, a branch of fine quality is cut, embossed in that cut and fastened up with a piece of cloth. In ring-budding, a round cut is given on the stem; new branch of fine quality is planted in it. Only a specialist can do it successfully and there are only three experts in the village for grafting and budding of the plants.
On both sides of the newly planted trees, the farmers erect small boundaries of one foot height with mud for proper irrigation. In March every year the soil inside the boundaries is softened for proper absorption of water for the first six years. After six years, complete orchard is dug to gives more oxygen to the roots of the trees. Fertilizers and insecticides are used whenever needed. An apple tree takes about seven years to grow, but their production remains lower than that of the grownup trees. The trees ageing ten to fifteen years give maximum and a very high quality production. After fifteen years, the quality starts decreasing because the trees get thicker and the proper amount of sunlight does not reach the fruit and it starts losing its colour.
Since the start of apple economy 9 different kinds of apple were grown in the orchards, which includes Kala Kolu (Tor Kolu), Sabaz Kolu (Shin Kolu), LalKolu, Kashmiri, Mashadi, Ameri, Kandhari, American and Fransi. Kala Kolu is considered to be the best and dearest of all apples. It is also called Golden apple. SabazKolu has a longer life. It can be stored for longer durations. As far as the taste is concerned, both of these are considered as the best. Kashmiri, Mashadi, Ameri and Kandhari come in the next order of taste and quality.
American, Fransi and LalKolu are small in size and sour in taste, and are used for making jams and juices only. But now from the last 20 years, the people have gradually switched over to two kinds of apple – Kala Kolu and Gaja, because of their great export value and local market demand. Both of these types have higher rates and bring them more profit. This shows that desire for more money is forcing them to abandon their traditions. This traditional society is gradually changing into a more profit oriented society.
Use of Technology in Horticulture
During the last couple of decades technology has played a pivotal role in the development of new cultivation methodologies. Beasts of burden such as donkeys and bulls are no longer used for cultivation; instead tractors are used for leveling of the land, bulldozers are used to clean stones from the fields, modern spraying machines are used for insecticide spraying and trucks are used for transportation of fruit to the markets. Chemical fertilizers mixed with animal dung are used for fertilization. These modern chemical fertilizers are readily available from the near city market of Quetta. An office of Agriculture Department also exists in the village which provides knowledge regarding protection and development of fruit production, thus modern techniques such as grafting and budding are also known to the villagers. This department also provides bulldozers, tractors and other mechanical instruments to the formers at cheaper rental rates.
For transportation of fruit to the different markets, they hire trucks which are easily available in the village during the season. In the past, there were no proper road network and transport facilities were also not available to everyone. Today with the improvement in these two sectors, it has become easier for the farmers to reach the markets. The orchard owners have started taking their fruit to the markets themselves avoiding the contractors and earning more profits. Until 2002 horticulture production was mainly depending on Karez water. A small area was irrigated through tractor-powered wells. In 2002 electric tube-wells were introduced in the area. These tube-wells are providing sufficient amount of water and fulfilling most of their irrigational needs.