Snowless winter has Himachal apple growers worried

Shimla: Apple country is a worried lot as deficient snowfall threatens to upset crop prospects and orchard owners delay winter farm operations gazing at the skies, waiting for the landscape to get a snow cover.

“No snow means a bleak year ahead for temperate fruits as trees need to undergo a minimum number of chilling hours and soil moisture is a must for fertilizers soluble to dissolve and provide essential nutrients for the trees to bear fruit,” says Lekh Raj Chauhan,  president HP Apple fruit growers association.

“Much of the winter is over and only isolated valleys have received some rains so far,” says Raj Gopal Sud, district horticulture officer. “We are sky gazing and hoping for it rain and snow but if it does not do so over the next fortnight, it could impact temperate fruit productivity down the year,” he said.

Weather related damage is wrecking havoc on fruit crops, says Ranjeet Mehta, a fruit grower from Kotgarh. Last year it was excessive rains during harvest time that affected the quality of the fruit just before it was to be marketed and now we have this prolonged dryness has us worried again, he added.

Farm scientists and horticulture department have drawn up plans for improving productivity by planting improved stock varieties and have even imported about 24,000 apple saplings to be passed onto fruit growers. With winter being the planting season, dry soil conditions have delayed laying out of new orchards as well as adding fertilizers inputs onto terraced fields.

Sud says, “demand for planting new saplings is sapping as the dry period gets prolonged.”

As Editor, Ravinder Makhaik has nurtured Hill Post for over a decade. A chequered path had him drift from managing family owned apple orchards, to turning a documentary filmmaker, to a journalist - with India’s leading television networks and newspapers, to boot strapping in founding Start-Ups. He lives in Shimla.

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