Q. Tell us about yourself and how you got an interest in floriculture?
I studied till class 10th from Ladakh Public School, Leh and higher secondary from Govt. School Sector 10 Chandigarh. After 12th, I appeared for the ICAR entrance examination and pursued B.sc Horticulture from the University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences, Shimoga, and M.sc in Post harvesting technology from the University of Horticultural Sciences, Bagalkote. Later, I pursued Ph.D. from Delhi University and researched Probiotics. In 2020 I completed my Ph.D. and came back to Leh. I met some of my seniors who are working in SKUAST and through one of them, I got to know that the Industries department along with the CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT) Palampur is working on floriculture in Ladakh. I met the Former Director of the Industries and Commerce department Moses Kunzang and shared with him my interest in the project. He checked my profile and allowed me to work. I took the project and did the first trial on half kanal land in Tukcha where we planted around 1600 flowers. The trial became successful and this year in 2022, IHBT Palampur gave us the flower bulbs to scale up the project. So this time the project was carried out in Sankar, Stok, Phey, Spituk villages and planted Gladiolus and Lilium flowers. In this project Self Help Groups and around 7 young entrepreneurs are involved. The first batch of Lilium flower consignments consisting of approximately 800 flower sticks was shipped to Mandi of New Delhi from Leh Ladakh on August 11, 2022.
Q. Why the trial has been made on Gladiolus and Lilium flowers in Ladakh? Is there a good potential in these flowers?
Under the project of Mission floriculture by CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (CSIR-IHBT), Palampur focus is being made on bulbous crops and flowers, and regions like Jammu &Kashmir, Haryana, and Ladakh were adopted for this project. Earlier, the project was carried out in Himachal Pradesh and found that the bulbous flowers are successful in hilly areas. Thus, it is being replicated in Ladakh because it is a hilly region and also, and Lilium is considered a premium flower and has a good demand and rates in the market. The plus point of cultivating the Lilium flower is that it is grown as an off-season crop in Ladakh when major markets like New Delhi are devoid of this flower during June, July, and August. Ladakh can contribute a good number of these flowers and can fill this demand gap during these off-season months.
Q. Floriculture is a new concept introduced in Ladakh. What you will say about how much scope is there in floriculture?
Floriculture in Ladakh can be developed at a very good level because of the suitable climatic condition to grow flowers. The day length in summer is long which increases the photosynthesis period which is a boon to growing flowers, especially bulbous crops. Because of the good photoperiod, the crop grows very well, and we don’t just have a scope to grow only flowers but bulbs production also because we have seen that the bulbs multiply after a year. Bulb production will be a boon to Ladakh because it is not found anywhere else.
Also, there is a scope to grow saffron in Ladakh. We planted on a trial basis in Tukcha on an open field and in the greenhouse at Spituk, and the results were good in terms of quality. Saffron plantation is economical if we plant on a large piece of land and can be planted on the field when the harvesting season is over. In October and November, the flower of saffron comes out as the flowering needs a chilling temperature. It can easily be explored in areas where only one crop is cultivated. Thus, saffron is also a crop that needs to be explored because it has good potential.
Q. How important is it to aware people of floriculture in Ladakh and will it be an economic boost if we develop and promote it?
Floriculture is considered low volume and high value. In Ladakh, it needs to be promoted and developed because there are scopes and potential. At present we are not at that stage, but floriculture is growing. In Thiksay, the department of agriculture has created a flower farm which is also a good initiative. Today many fields are left uncultivated because of many reasons these fields can be used to cultivate flowers. For eg on 1 kanal land around 1 lakh, flowers can be grown. Compared to other crops farmers can earn more from flowers. In Himachal Pradesh people were reluctant to grow flowers but seeing a farmer who earned more than double from flowers on 1 Knl land, people started adopting it. In the beginning, there is always a reluctance to start something new but gradually seeing it as a good economic option people will adopt it.
Q. What are the challenges faced and how can be curbed?
The market is a challenging factor but not an impossible one. The flowers we grow are ordered by hotels in Ladakh like Grand Dragon who have supported us for a long time and during his time the Lilium was exported to the Delhi market. We need to explore and try because it’s not that there is no market at all. Secondly, people are less aware of earning from flowers. I hope that our initiative will encourage many others to adopt the same. Also, training and awareness are needed from expertise because there are certain techniques in growing and harvesting. Procuring planting material is also challenging because Lilium bulbs are very costly. We have requested the administration to procure bulbs at subsidized rates and are hopeful that they will be made available.
Q. What are your next plans? Are you going to explore any new flowers?
There are many flowers to explore, but we are focusing on the Peonies flower which is a premium flower and is imported from abroad. We came across that the Ladakh Climatic condition is perfect to grow this flower and are going to explore it. Also, I feel that we can commercialize the wildflowers of Ladakh.
Q. What is your advice to the young entrepreneurs
Floriculture has potential but an interest to work in it is important. Without interest and hard work, it will not be an easy job. Plan well, take advice from expertise and
be a risk taker to be successful.
Message to the readers
“Ladakh has huge potential in floriculture and people must explore it.”