In South Kashmir orchards, early apple drop is a bad omen – Kashmir Reader
SKUAST soil scientist says cloud cover and rains could have hampered photosynthesis, nutritional supplement needed
Anantnag: Apple growers here in the southern districts of Kashmir are worried about apples dropping prematurely from the trees long before the usual harvest season.
Hundreds of orchard owners in Kulgam and Shopian districts have been reporting the problem for some time now. “The phenomenon is more common in orchards located in the southern plains of Kashmir. Orchards at higher altitude were spared,” said the fruit growers Kashmir Reader spoke to.
They said the drop in fruit has been consistent for over a week now. Arborists believe that the pesticides they used could be the cause.
Some of them also think that the early flowering in the orchards could be a reason. “This year, the flowering came way too early, in March, while the trees usually flower around the end of April,” Ashraf Wani, an arborist in Shopian district, told Kashmir Reader.
He said the issue had worried hundreds of horticulturists in South Kashmir. “Especially in the low areas of our district, like Zainapora and other nearby areas,” Wani said.
He added that the fallen fruit did not contain any seeds, which is why he suspects pesticides could be a reason for the early drop.
Tree growers in Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama districts have complained about the same problem.
“The last few years have been the most turbulent years for apple growers in Kashmir, starting with the first snowfall which took its toll and then the highway problems. Now it’s this early flowering,” Zahid Ahmad, a fruit grower from Kulgam, told Kashmir Reader.
Zahid, however, said he did not believe pesticide use could be a possible reason. “We didn’t use any new pesticides. If they were a problem, the drop would have happened in previous years as well,” he said.
Experts also believe what Zahid has to say. Kashmir Reader had a detailed discussion on the matter with Dr. Mumtaz Ahmad, a soil scientist at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Agricultural Sciences (SKUAST).
Dr. Ahmad classified fruit drop into three stages: post-bloom drop, June drop, and pre-harvest drop.
“It’s the June drop we’re seeing right now,” he said, adding that the reason for the drop is slower fruit growth. “Fruits whose daily growth slows down by about 50% are bound to fall,” he said.
Dr Ahmad said the reasons for slower growth this year could be cloudy weather, lack of humidity, nutrient deficiency or extra heat. “But as far as I think, this drop was caused by the incessant rains that hit the Kashmir valley in June, creating a flood-like situation,” he said.
He said the cloud cover and rain hampered plant photosynthesis, causing plants to run out of nutrients and eventually drop fruit. He said he was hopeful, however, and the drop shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
“Thinning the fruit means the plant has to supply nutrients to fewer apples, which will ensure their best growth,” he said. “However, growers need to ensure that they also use a nutrient supplement to enhance the growth of the remaining fruit.”