Shimla: A massive hailstorm followed by a cold spell and rain lasting over a week has dampened hopes of a bounty harvest for much of the lower and middle fruit growing belts as the blossom was washed out.
Hitting many areas in Theog, Jubbal and Kothkai, last Thursday, the hailstorm left a trail of damages across orchards and vegetable fields.
“It has been a bad spring for us,” says Shishupal Chauhan, a resident from Kotkhai. “A cold winter with enough snow had raised prospects of a good apple crop but first hail and now the untimely rain has damaged the fruit blossom,” he said.
Fruit crops like cherries, apricots, plums, peaches and apples are highly sensitive to rain and temperature fluctuations in spring as warm weather increases bee activity that help in pollination and a good fruit set. But the weather has been playing truant this year, he added.
However, a horticulture officer said that all was not lost. “Some fruit growing belts have been hit by bad weather conditions but there are large areas which have not been affected, he said.
A pilot project of using anti-hail guns to dissolve hail threatening clouds before a critical point is reached proved much too little before the forces of nature for the second year in a row as there are only three of them whereas many more are needed to avert the risks involved.
The anti-hail gun near my orchard was activated a little late, says Sanjeev Chauhan, another orchard from Kothkai. But once it was on the job, there was no hail after that, he added.
Not lucky to be in the guns range, Surinder from Balsan area of Theog said that the damage to orchards in the area was extensive and any hopes of a crop were all but dashed.
Of the 48 panchayats in Jubbal-Kotkhai, 37 aree reported to have suffered weather related damages.
For having had record fruit crop of 1028 thousand tons in 2010, production fell to as much as 329 thousand tons in 2011. With the bulk of the fruit crops made of apple, production fell from 892 thousand tons in 2010 to 275 thousand tons in 2011.