Apple growers in Shimla and Kinnaur districts are facing a worrying situation due to off-season snowfall affecting their apple crops.
Most apple plants are in full bloom right now, and the sudden drop in temperature and snowfall are negatively affecting apple set, causing thousands of apple growers to worry about their cash crops.
Snowfall is causing damage to plants and crops in several apple growing areas up to 9,000ft including Kotkhai (Baghi) tehsil, Jubbal (Chunjar), Rohru (Khadrala, Janglaik) in Shimla district and Bhaba valley in Kinnaur.
Rainfall in Shimla and Kinnaur have been 393% and 344% higher than normal respectively in the last week, highlighting the seriousness of the situation. If the inclement weather continues, apple growers are likely to face tough times, already suffering losses due to hail and snowfall damaging apple plants.
The situation raises concerns about the future of apple growing in the region, and it is critical that the government and policymakers take the necessary steps to support and safeguard the livelihoods of apple growers.
The sustainability of apple farming may be at risk due to increasingly erratic and extreme weather patterns, which is a concern for the livelihoods of apple growers. Therefore, it is crucial that legislators and the government take the necessary measures to support and safeguard apple cultivation in the region.
Sanjeev Thakur, a horticulturist from Chawara Valley in Rohru said that “if the off-season snowfall and harsh weather conditions persist, apple growers will face significant challenges. If growers don’t put up hail nets, they suffer losses from hail, and if they do and it snows, the plants are still damaged”. These challenges make it essential that the government and legislators support apple growers and protect their livelihoods.”.
Climate change impacts apple production
During April and May, the apple orchards in the Kinnaur district do not need the white nets used in the neighbouring Shimla district to protect themselves from hailstorms. However, the region is now experiencing changes in its weather patterns, with increased precipitation and decreased snowfall.
This disruption is disrupting the traditional apple-growing routine as cooler winter temperatures, necessary to ensure proper dormancy, bud break, and flowering of apple trees, are no longer guaranteed due to a lack of snow.
As a result, reduced snowfall is affecting the quality and quantity of apples produced in Kinnaur, and other parts of Himachal Pradesh are also facing similar problems.
A 2013 study revealed that apple growers in the low and mid-elevation foothills of Kinnaur experienced a decline in production due to rising temperatures, while those at altitudes above 3,000 meters reported no decline.
In recent years, indicators of climate change, such as pests and diseases, including scab and apple canker, have increased the cost of production.
This April, the region witnessed light rain almost every day during the flowering and fruiting period, reducing pollination as bees are less likely to leave their hives.
The Unseasonal rainfall and snowfall, coupled with the lack of proper drainage facilities, causes flooding and promote disease and insect infestation. Farmers are concerned that less than 30% of apple trees bear fruit, which would cause a difficult time for Kinnaur’s economy.
In 2015, the Pooh subdivision experienced a drought-like situation due to reduced snowfall, which dried up irrigation sources, resulting in a year without a crop.
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