Weather blues

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Subnormal temperatures are making the summer pleasant but crops are bearing the brunt. Haroon Mirani reports on the threats of erratic weather to crops and fruits.
This summer is not so hot, and even if at times it gets, erratic showers bring down the temperature
According to meteorological department, Kashmir is experiencing below normal temperatures this season. “Even in the first few days of July the temperatures were five to six degrees below normal,” says T S Zutshi, director meteorological department.
While the low temperatures make the weather beautiful or at least bearable, the news is not so good for crops.
Temperatures have been abnormally low during the crucial sowing and flowering season threatening the agriculture produce.
According to agronomist Dr. K N Singh, Associate Director Extension Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Srinagar (SKUAST), the low temperature has stunted growth of rice plants and delayed the crop by 12-14 days.
Rice crop needs heat accumulation which it is not getting due to low and fluctuating temperatures. The production is going to be impacted. “Even if everything goes fine from now onwards, still we won’t be getting bumper crop and our total harvest will be less by around 5 per cent,” said Singh. Other crops have been similarly affected.
The problems started early this year with sub normal temperatures in spring season. “Flowering season is crucial for our horticulture sector and temperatures during this time were below normal. Rains were also in plenty,” says F A Banday, Head of Department, Pomology, SKUAST.
At the time of pollination, the temperature should have been 25 to 28 degree centigrade but it was below 25 C. “Besides, the Bee activity too was not that good due to low temperature and excess rains,” says Banday.
Unsatisfactory pollination in cross fertilisation crops like apple has led to lesser fruit production.
Revival of disease
Apart from hindering development, experts say the subnormal temperature is ideal for many diseases, especially the fungal ones.
“Fungal diseases in rice and other crops are making a comeback,” says Singh. So is the case with fruits. “Scab is making a comeback this season as the temperature has been optimal for its growth,” says Banday. “The disease had almost been eradicated, with its presence reduced to mere 5 per cent last year. But this year the situation has changed and we are getting inquiries and reports from farmers about the eruption of this disease.”
Both the intensity and the frequency of this disease have increased. Some experts opine that Scab disease will be of record proportions in the coming season, which will also lead to fruit damage.
Despite threats experts are optimistic, if not for the quantity of production but for quality. “For example when the fruits will be less on a tree, the nutrients and sunlight available for the remaining fruits will be higher and so their quality can be extremely good,” say Banday.
But weather predictions can bring down the leftover optimism too.
Both the maximum temperature and minimum temperatures have been subnormal. “For July, minimum temperature is still below normal. From the normal of 18, the temperature we are recording is anywhere between 12 – 15,” says Zutshi.
The meteorological department says the trend is due to continuous disturbances over the region. The department has predicted more rain in coming days. Agriculture experts say that if the situation doesn’t improve the damage to agriculture and horticulture will be severe.
Almost every crop is affected due to temperature change. “Every Kharif crop, except maize, will be affected due to the fluctuating temperature” says Singh. “Maize which is grown on Karewas and dry areas needs moisture and current weather is good and not bad for it.”
SKUAST has now come out with guidelines for farmers to tackle the problem. (what guidelines)
“We are regularly doing sessions with farmers and giving expert advices to them,” says Singh. “We are also doing a phone in programme on Doordarshan wherein farmers will ask question to our experts regarding the current problems to their crops.”
SKUAST is also in the process of publishing weekly information where seven days weather forecast will be provided to farmers. “Simultaneous instructions for dealing with any change in weather during these seven days will also be packaged with the forecast,” says Singh.
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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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