Srinagar: In a breakthrough, scientists have claimed successful cultivation of olive trees, a prized Mediterranean produce for the first time in the Valley, owing to favorable weather conditions here.
   
Scientists and researchers at Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture (CITH) have grown olive trees, in its farms, where the project to study the behavior of olive trees in the climatic conditions of Valley was underway since 2008.
   
"Out of nearly 60 varieties of olive trees brought in from United States, Egypt and Italy, six Italian varieties are performing very good under Kashmir's climate," said Shiv Lal, the scientist in-charge of the olive project at CITH.
   
"Earlier flowering and fruits were not there, but since the climate of Kashmir has changed -- summers have become hotter and winters are no longer colder, the olive trees are producing flowers and fruits," Lal said.
   
The first fruits borne by the dozen-odd olive trees last summer were displayed yesterday to the participants of first group meeting on outreach of technologies for temperate fruit crops.
   
"This is the first produce," Research Associate at CITH, Muzamil Salmani, told as he held a jar full of olives in his hand.
   
Salmani also mentioned that it is possible for the farmers to take olive trees for cultivation in their own farms.
   
Highlighting that olive trees require special treatment and proper pruning during winter months he said, "Olive leaves remain green throughout the year, and thus can break down under the weight of snow."
   
Shiv Lal mentioned that Uri, Banihal and Ramban areas of Kashmir, which have sub-temperate weather conditions are most suitable for the cultivation of olives.
   
"In Ramban, olives are already a success story and since these trees have grown here and have produced fruits, so they can be grown anywhere in Kashmir," he said.
   
"Olive trees, which are "life long" and can last upto 300 years, are now producing five to six kilograms of fruit per plant," he added.
   
"The production increases with age of plant. In next ten years, we expect the trees will produce upto 50 kilograms per plant," he said.
   
The fruits when churned produce the costly olive oil which is valued for its medicinal and therapeutic properties besides being used as a cooking oil.
   
The CITH farms are located adjacent to the Old Airfield in central Kashmir's Budgam district, 15 kms from the capital Srinagar.

(Agencies)