One of the warmest winters in living memory and thundering clouds showering hailstorms in spring time has apple orchards owners in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and other fruit growing areas a worried lot.
Spring is a time when the apple trees come alive with buds sprouting out a fresh leaf cover and flowers that on being pollinated with bear fruit. An hailstorm at this delicate stage is enough to destroy hopes of any crop for the year.
With the trees in full bloom, regular spring showers sprinkled with hailstorms and at places temperatures dropping low because of snowfall could impact the movement of bees, essential for pollination and fruit setting of the apple crop.
Mr. Prakash Thakur, Vice-Chairman, HPMC, observed that fruit trees this spring were exhibiting more leaves than flowers. Orchards in Baghi, Ratnari, Chunjar, Kharapather and in Kinnaur had even received a fresh spell of light snow, just three days ago, he said. This drop in temperature was bad for the apple crop and to add to the farmers troubles, frost was damaging the natural cycle in higher altitude orchards, he added.
The orchards that are facing the South, are facing a severe lack of moisture and were displaying very lean flowering. The orchards in the middle and lower altitudes had to deal with continuous rain for the last three to four days. Reports from orchards in the Shantha-Deot belt, were also confirming poor flowering this year.
Prem Bhagta a farmer from Shantha village, said that hailstorms had totally devastated the flowering in the region of Pandli, Bakhol and Ramnagar panchayats in Kotkhai, Barthata and Dhaar in Jubbal. On the whole dismal reports are coming in from all apple growing regions, and it seems that the chances of a high yield are very low this year.