Tribune News Service: Climate changes such as less snowfall and temperature fluctuations seem to be taking their toll on apple production in Uttarakhand. Apple farmers in the higher reaches of the state are shifting to other fruits such as peach and plum that require lesser cold conditions. More than 98 per cent of the country’s apple is cultivated in the north western region covering the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Though Uttarakhand’s contribution to the total apple production in the country is just 3.7 per cent, the state horticulture authorities have been making all efforts to increase the area under apple cultivation, but are facing climate change challenges. In the recent past, it has been observed that due to declining snowfall in many hill districts, apple growers are shifting to cultivation of stone fruits such as peach, plum and apricot that require less chilling. In the apple famous Ramgarh belt of Nainital district, the crop has been successfully replaced by peach, which interestingly is even fetching farmers good prices in the markets of Delhi and Mumbai. At present, 33.76 hectares are under apple cultivation and 90 per cent of this area is rain-fed, which further affects apple productivity. According to a study done by Dr BS Negi, Dr Ratan Kumar and Dr Surbhi Pandey, all from the Uttarakhand Department of Horticulture and Food Processing, climate change is certainly impacting apple production in Uttarakhand and needs urgent remedial measures.
While geographical and climatic conditions of Uttarakhand are suitable for apple production, adverse weather conditions like inadequate rainfall, occurrence of hailstorms during flowering and fruit development and temperature fluctuations were hampering the production of apple, leading to financial insecurity among the fruit growers. To mitigate the climate change impact on apple cultivation, the study recommends promotion of small weather stations and a meteorological observatory over 1,500 metre altitude to monitor changes in climate in the apple growing areas.
It also suggests horticulture research institutes and universities to focus on the development of suitable varieties and technologies of climate resilient horticulture for a temperate fruit like apple. It also calls for the selection of an apple variety for a place after considering long-term aspects of climate change in the region. It also suggests maintaining apple variety-based performance data to see the extent of damage to a particular variety due to extreme climate changes.
Significantly, India stands fifth among the world’s top 10 apple producing countries. Jammu and Kashmir contributes 70 per cent of the total apple production of the country and Uttarakhand can contribute a lot more by adopting strategies to reduce the impact of climate change.
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