Early Rise in Day Temperature ‘Threatens’ Horticulture Production

Riyaz Bhat

SRINAGAR

A man near his apple orchard in Lethpora village which was previously a saffron field.
KL file Image.

The second consecutive year of dry spell in Kashmir might cost heavily the apple grower in valley.

Agriculture experts claim that the early increase in day temperatures shall prove “a great disaster for the local horticulture production”.

Gh Mohammad of Shopian, who owns around three acres of apple orchard, has a story of sadness and anguish to tell. He is standing alone in his apple orchard and is in deep thought. “It shall be very dangerous in future,” he said when asked about his cause of anguish, “snow and rains revive the dead trees and you see, there has been very less rainfall this winter.”

This winter has witnessed very less snow and rainfall. Day temperatures have already broken 70 year old records. Last time, it was in 1940 that the day temperature crossed 20 degree Celsius in February and same happened this year when 21 degree Celsius was record a few days ago.

“The increase in temperature has resulted in early bloom in almond and apple trees,” Prof Nasim, who teaches at SKUAST-K, said, “this will result in a great disaster.”

A scene of apple harvest.
A scene of apple harvest.

Detailing the process of pollination in fruit producing trees, Prof Nasim said, “the hot temperatures produce pollens and these pollens need to be transported from male to their female counterparts but this time there are chances that the pollens will get damaged.” “It is a very fragile system as there will be no insects which will carry the pollens as temperatures have increased very early this time.”

Of late, there has been a rapid conversion of rice fields into apple and maize fields. The rice production needs continuous irrigation which is not the case in apple and maize production.

“You will find Sopore-Sangrama belt that people have shifted from rice production to apple orchards and maize production,” Prof Nasim gave an instance, “however, now with the change in climate, apple production too is under serious threat.”

“There is need of almost 1000 hours to 1,800 hours of cold temperature required for apple plants for better production,” Gh Mohammad (65) said. He has been in apple production for last forty years.

“If there will be less precipitation, the content of moisture in soil will decrease which means the plant growth will be halted and can even deteriorate the quality of fruits,” he said.

Almond
Early flowering of Almond trees in Kashmir. This picture was clicked by Bilal Bahadur on February 25, 2016. ‘These-like’ scenes are usually witnessed in late March and early April.

However, Abdul Karim of Pulwama, whose apple orchards spread over 20 kanals of land is hopeful of a “good rainfall”. “We expect a good rainfall in March,” he says with a ray of hope that western disturbances shall bring clouds over Kashmir. “Only that can prevent the further losses to the fruit growers.”

“If God forbid there is less precipitation, it will naturally affect the water level in the plain areas. Last year it cost around 35 percent losses in agriculture production of Pulwama district and 20-25 percent in Shopian, this year it seems to be worst,” said a fruit grower in South Kashmir.

The change in climate and its consequent effect on the agricultural produce has witnessed people holding special prayers. Last year, when people smelled “draught-like situation”, special prayers were held by farming community in Shopian. “We have already started preparations,” Karim, who is in his late 50s, said.

Kashmir was hit by devastating floods in September 2014. The deluge saw major agriculture fields getting destroyed and apple trees too were damaged.

On the other hand, the less precipitation and early rise in temperatures, experts said, could damage the sprouted flowers. “The increasing temperature and the lack of snowfall and rain will cause early flowering and will hasten the formation of fruits. It all should take place at its own time,” they said. “There life will be very less if this situation continues.”

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