Rain, snow cheer apple growers in Himachal Pradesh

April 3rd, 2009 - 2:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, April 3 (IANS) Falling temperatures and more snowfall and rain in Himachal Pradesh - known as the fruit bowl of the country - has raised hopes of a good harvest of fruits this season too.
“Snow and rain in the past 10 days, though delayed, will be beneficial for the apple, peach, plum, pear, apricot, almond and cherry crops,” S.P. Bhardwaj, joint director at the Solan-based Dr Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, told IANS.

According to him, regular snow in high-altitude areas and rain in the mid-hills have increased the moisture content in the soil, which had fallen during the prolonged dry spell last December.

“Now, the moisture is sufficient to help the apple crop bloom flowers in the next 10 days,” Bhardwaj said.

The apple crop has come out of dormancy period, and is entering pink bud stage - a period when flowering begins in April.

The meteorological office said the Kothgarh-Thanedar apple belt in the Shimla and Mandi districts, as well the entire Kullu valley, received good rain and snow in the past few days.

The apple crop requires 1,000 to 1,600 hours of chilling with the temperature at seven degrees Celsius or less during dormancy before flowering begins.

“We have already crossed 1,250 chilly hours. The dry spell is almost over. This (rain) is certainly timely,” state horticulture director Gurdev Singh said.

Added a satisfied Kanwar Yogendra, an apple farmer from Shimla district: “The recent rains have cheered us. This time we hope to get a good harvest if the weather remains favourable till the harvesting.”

But at the same time, climatic changes in the lower Himalayas over the past decade are a matter of concern.

“In certain pockets of Kullu, Mandi and Shimla districts, apple production has declined due to climatic changes,” Sudhir Katiha, assistant project officer of the state horticulture department, said, adding this has forced many farmers to switch over to kiwi cultivation.

Apple is the state’s main fruit crop and is grown in nine out of 12 districts. Himachal Pradesh produced 25.5 million crates of apples in 2007-08, though the maximum output - of 28.6 million crates - was recorded in 2006-07.

The economy of the hill state is highly dependent on horticulture, apart from hydroelectric power and tourism, with the annual fruit industry worth about Rs.2,000 crore.

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