Snow cheers apple growers in Himachal

January 16th, 2011 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Jan 16 (IANS) Widespread snowfall in the apple-growing areas of Himachal Pradesh has brightened the prospects of a bumper apple production this year too.High hills in Shimla, Kullu, Mandi and Kinnaur districts have been experiencing moderate spell of snow since Friday and the Met office has predicted more snow later this month.

“These spells of snow are good for fruit crops like apple, peach, plum, apricot and almond,” Horticulture Director Gurdev Singh told IANS.

He said regular snow and rain have sufficiently increased the moisture content in the soil that helped the apple plant get nutrients in the pre-flowering season.

The apple crop is at present dormant and will come out of it by March. In April, it will enter the pink bud stage - a period when the flowering begins.

S.P. Bhardwaj, a former joint director at the Solan-based Doctor Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, said during dormancy the apple crop requires 1,000 to 1,600 hours of chilling with the temperature at 7 degrees Celsius or less.

“Frequent spells of snow will enable the crop to get the chilling hours well in advance. The extended chilling period is beneficial to the crop during blooming and fruition,” he said.

Snow is considered as white manure for the apple orchards.

The meteorological office in Shimla said Kotgarh and Thanedar, the prominent apple belt in upper Shimla, Kinnaur and Mandi districts as well as the entire Kullu valley received good snow in the past few weeks.

Anil Dayal, an apple farmer from Kotkhai in Shimla district, said: “There is sufficient accumulation of snow that would also help sustain the moisture in the soil even during peak summer. We again hope to get a good yield if the weather remains congenial till the harvesting.”

Ravinder Chauhan, another grower, said: “This year’s timely and sufficient snow makes the farmers to replace the old plants with the new ones.”

The rise in demand is giving the suppliers a bumper opportunity as they have almost doubled the rates of saplings against last year’s Rs.25 to Rs.30 per sapling.

Himachal Pradesh is one of India’s major apple-producing regions, with more than 200,000 families engaged in the cultivation of the fruit.

The state’s economy is highly dependent on horticulture, besides hydroelectric power and tourism, with the fruit industry worth about Rs.2,000 crore (Rs.20 billion) per year.

The state had a record yield of apples in 2010 with 4.46 crore boxes of 20 kg each.

The previous record yield of 2.6 crore boxes was in 2007. In 2009, it slipped to 1.4 crore boxes.

Besides apples, other fruits like cherries, pears, peaches, apricots, kiwis, strawberries, olives, almonds and plums are the major commercial crops of the state.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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