Plentiful snow, bountiful apples in Himachal
Shimla: A thick blanket of snow covering the apple orchards of Himachal Pradesh has brought hopes of a bountiful crop this season among growers after two years of less than normal yield. Last year, over 20 million boxes of apples of 20 kg each were harvested in the state — 20 percent less than the normal yield of 25 million boxes. This month's snow, though delayed, has increased the prospects of a good and healthy apple crop, state horticulture department director Gurdev Singh told IANS.
He said areas of upper Shimla, which accounted for 80 percent of the state's total apple production, have seen more than three feet of snow. Apples are the mainstay of Himachal's economy, with more than 200,000 families engaged in the fruit's cultivation. The apple industry is worth over Rs 2,000 crore. Gopal Mehta, a prominent apple grower in Kothgarh in Shimla district, told IANS: "Plentiful snow will sufficiently increase the moisture content in the soil and help the apple plants, which are in dormancy these days, to get sufficient nutrients during summer".
Experts say snow also helps maintain the minimum chilling period for an orchard, which ranges between 1,000 and 1,600 hours. S.P. Bhardwaj, former joint director of Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry in Solan, said the apple plants still needed chilling.
"A healthy crop requires chilling in this point in time with temperature hovering at seven degrees Celsius or less," he said. The recent snowfall will give sufficient time to the apple plants to remain in dormancy and lower the risk of premature bud breaking and flowering in mid-March, he added. But field reports say the snow has also destroyed apple plants in some areas of Shimla.