Climate change emerges as a big threat to apple orchards in Himachal Pradesh

After experiencing an apple revolution for the past 50 to 60 years, farmers in Himachal Pradesh have faced adverse weather conditions due to climate change which has become a major threat to their orchards.

“Our products are too dependent on the weather, unlike Kashmir where they have irrigation facilities. Recurring dry spells, excessive or untimely rains or lack of snow during winters have an impact on apple production, even though we manage the orchards skillfully,” says Sanjay Chauhan, an arborist and former mayor of Shimla.

This year, too, the apple harvest experienced a prolonged dry spell that hit the season at the flowering stage. As the crop matured, excessive rain damaged the crop. This had an impact on the size and color of the fruits.

Global warming and climate change have become a real challenge all over the world, especially in mountainous regions. Apples have been the most important cash crop in Himachal Pradesh with a turnover of Rs 5,500 crore, but depletion of snow cover, warmer climate and low chill hours have had a negative impact on fruiting conditions.

Reduced snowfall and the change in schedule reduced cooling hours, which ultimately resulted in poor quality performance. Even this year, the early heat wave from April to May was a very unusual phenomenon.

Climate change has made things uncertain. The gradual shift of cultivation from low and medium altitudes to high altitudes is also a new development that is occurring due to climate change.

What should apple growers do? Asked by Professor Vijay Singh Thakur, Former Vice Chancellor, Dr YS Parmar Horticulture University, farmers need to switch to growing new varieties, which grow better in changed climatic conditions.

Many young arborists have switched to new varieties such as Red Chief, Super Chief, Oregon Spur and Scarlet Spur which fetch better rates than the “traditional” Delicious.

Pratap Chauhan, a farmer from Kotkhai, said: “For nearly 25 years, we have observed gradual changes in weather conditions in the region, which have intensified over the past 10 years. Snowfall episodes have decreased considerably. His cycle has also changed. Rain and hail have become completely unpredictable. New diseases arise because of the heat wave. We also need more sprays.

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