Snowfall raises hopes of good apple harvest in Himachal

January 7th, 2009 - 12:01 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Jan 7 (IANS) Farmers and horticulture experts are hoping that the light to moderate snowfall in the mid hills of Himachal Pradesh during the past few days after a long dry spell would ensure a good apple harvest this year too. “The onset of the snowfall season in the apple-growing belt would prove to be a boon for farmers. It will not only stimulate the normal cropping pattern but also advance the flowering season of apples,” P.S. Chauhan, a horticulture expert at the Solan-based Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, told IANS Wednesday.

“The state experienced a long dry spell for almost 100 days, which had affected not only the fruit crop in the mid-hills but also the vegetable and wheat crop in the lower-hills,” he said.

The upper areas of Shimla, Kullu and Mandi districts have been receiving regular snowfall since Jan 4.

“The apple crop requires 1,000 to 1,600 hours of chilling with the temperature at 7 degrees Celsius or less. The recent snow has brought down the temperatures considerably and has increased moisture content in the soil, which is favourable for apple crop,” Chauhan said.

Horticulture director Gurdev Singh said the recent snowfall would benefit all fruit-bearing crops.

“This is the time when apple, cherry and kiwi crops need proper chilly conditions and adequate moisture content,” he said.

Last year, the total apple yield in Himachal Pradesh - known as the fruit bowl of the country - was 2.46 crore (nearly 25 million) boxes, which is quite good, Singh added.

“It’s too early to predict this year’s apple yield, but I can say the onset of the snowfall season is good for the proper nourishment of the plants,” he said.

Varinder Sharma, an apple farmer from Oddi village in Shimla district, said the snowfall had raised the hopes of a good crop yield.

“Apple plants were in desperate need of snowfall because of a long dry spell. Of course, snow is considered as white manure in apple orchards,” he said.

Said Neeraj Negi, an apple-grower from a village in Kullu district: “The weather gods have obliged us with snowfall just in time. A good spell of snow in January ensures a good crop. Over the past few years, erratic and inadequate snowfall has been affecting apple production.”

Horticulture director Singh said the snowfall was also good for the kiwi and cherry crops.

“Kiwi cultivation is taking roots in the higher reaches of the state. More than 200 farmers have taken up kiwi cultivation in Kullu alone,” he said.

Apple is the main fruit crop of Himachal Pradesh and is being grown in nine out of 12 districts. Apple accounts for about 40 percent of the total area under all fruit crop cultivation.

More than 200,000 families in the state are engaged in apple cultivation and 90 percent of them are small and marginal farmers with an average holding of less than 0.6 hectares.

Besides apples, other fruits like pears, peaches, cherries and plums are the major commercial crops of Himachal Pradesh.

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