Millennium Post

'It's perfect, timely snow', cheers in apple-bowl

Shimla: There is a sense of gratitude, and cheers among the apple orchardists in Himachal Pradesh after a timely heavy snowfall, which is considered crucial to the apple crop.

Shimla — the queen of the hill as it is known, woke-up this morning wrapped in a milky white carpet though with problems like road and power disruptions in the freezing sub-zero conditions.

But, the atmosphere in the apple bowl was lightened up by exuberance.

"On Tuesday, snowfall had a good moisture content and today's snow provided a good second layer in the orchards on wet soil. Nearly two or three feet of snow is bound to last for a longer time to provide required chilling hours to the plants", said Dr Vijay Singh Thakur, former Vice-Chancellor of Dr Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, Nauni (Solan).

Thakur, who is also noted horticulturist scientist, also happy about the quality of the snow, apart from the volume.

For the past some years, the orchardists had been complaining about deficient rains and snow not able to provide suitable moisture content and chilling period to the apple plants for fruit-bearing.

Currently, the apple plants, after the crop season (between July-September) are in a dormant stage and orchardists take-up necessary pre-flowering operations like pruning and sprays, besides providing manures to the plants.

Those who have already completed the pruning work and sprays were already waiting for the snowfall.

"Today's snowfall is definitely timely. The volume of snowfall is in itself a signal about good crop prospects. Most areas in Kotkhai, Jubbal, Rohru, Chopal, Kotgarh, Thanedar, Theog, Rajgarh, and parts of Rampur have received snowfall up to two feet or even more," said Chander Thakur, an orchardist from Kotkhai.

Wednesday's snow is also quite timely as compared to earlier years when the snowfall, either used to be scanty or almost towards the end of January depriving the orchards of moisture and chilling hours before these enter to the flowering stage.

Not alone the apples even other fruits like almonds, apricots, and peers , cheery, etc are also going to be benefitted by the snowfall.

Says Dr Manmohan Singh, Director, Shimla centre of the Meteorological department, " snowfall is almost on the predicted lines and good for the season. All farm crops including fruits, vegetables, and wheat, etc are going to be benefitted. It's good for water recharging also in the region."

Known to be an 'apple-bowl' of India, Himachal Pradesh –a picturesque Himalayan state, with more than 100-year history of producing delicious apples, has the biggest worry on changing patterns of the climate. Snowfall, which normally should happen in December or January has become predictable.

As a result, apple growers were facing serious problems. Himachal's apple production was 2.23 crore boxes (each containing 20 kg of fruit) in 2017 that slipped down to 2.18 crore boxes in 2018 –the worst crop season. Himachal Pradesh's apple economy is valued at Rs 3500 crore per annum and there are 1.70 lakh families engaged in the apple cultivation in districts of Shimla, Kullu, Mandi, Solan, Sirmaur, Chamba and Kinnaur—a high altitude tribal district, bordering with Tibet.

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