DEHRADUN: In the prime apple-growing belt of the country’s Himalayan states – Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand — farmers are increasingly a worried lot these days. December is nearing its end, yet “no snowfall or rain has taken place”. If this weather condition persists, a white Christmas may not be on the cards this time, meteorologists pointed out, attributing it to “feeble western disturbances”. Usually by this time of the year, decent spells of winter rains and snowfall are recorded across these states. Bearing the brunt of the weather conditions, apple growers are facing a difficult time.
‘Next 15 days would be crucial for apple farmers
T he crop requires at least 1,200 hours of below 7 degrees Celsius temperature for good flowering and fruiting; this period is also known as “chilling hours” when temperature is low and there is sufficient watering of the apple trees. It starts from December but this year the apple-producing areas have witnessed “100% deficit in snowfall and rain”. Regional meteorological centre director Bikram Singh said, “This year, our minimum temperature is above 2 degrees so far.” Chain Singh, an applegrower from Harsil in Uttarakhand, said,

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“Our forefathers would compare December snowfall to ‘gold’ because it would not melt easily due to extremely cold weather, and the soil would thus get enriched with water and moisture. But this year, December is almost gone without snow or rain. This will impact flowering and fruiting, and affect the quality of the crop.” Another farmer added that even if temperature is dipping, the “absence of snow and rain” which is primarily called “dry winters”, would pose a serious threat to the crop. The soil won’t get any moisture or nutrition in its present dormant form, he further said. The “advance snowfall” in the higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir hasn’t been helpful either.

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“Snow fell during harvesting season and not chilling season. We need snow now so that our apples are crunchier, colourful and tasty. Only such quality of apples give us good profit,” said Suresh Chand, a fruit-grower from Kishtwar district of J&K. Experts said farmers should not be too pessimistic. There may be good news for them next month as “weather conditions might become more favourable”. “Next 15 days would be crucial for apple farmers. It may impact Himachal and Uttarakhand,” said Nazir Ahmad, ex-director of Central Institute of Temperate Horticulture, ICAR-Kashmir.

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