By Raashid Hassan
Shopian: Wholesome snowfall that recently terminated a record dry spell in Kashmir has brought cheer on the faces of thousands of orchardists in south Kashmir region who expect rejuvenation of fruit trees after years of drought-like conditions.
Last year there was no snowfall in Chillai Kalan, the 40-day period of harshest winter and this year the first three weeks of this period went without precipitation. However, the snowfall last week in all higher reaches and most of the plain areas gave much needed “face saving” to the Chillai Kalan.
Tariq Ahmad, an apple orchardist from Pinjura area of Shopian said the less snowfall in 2016 adversely affected the apple crop and due to insufficient water level in the ground during summer and autumn months, several crop diseases erupted or intensified.
He said the continued drought-like conditions had raised fears of low yield in the vital economic sector.
Shabir Ahmed Bhat, another fruit grower from Shopian told Kashmir Reader that snow is fundamental for the horticulture sector and helps not only in maintaining the required stock of water but also helps in keeping several crop diseases at bay.
“The sufficient water lessens the intensity of diseases on the fruit trees. This in turn makes the orchards on lesser demand of pesticides,” Bhat said.
Going by the past experience Bhat said that whenever there has been colossal snowfall, the apple crop has been of higher quality and grade. “A bigger advantage of snowfall is that it mixed manure and other fertilizers with the ground and helps to nourish the orchard in a balanced way,” Mohammad Ismail, another orchardist said.
Gulzar Ahmed Sheikh, an almond grower from Chandgam area of Pulwama told Kashmir Reader that winter snow is essential for the almond crop but ironically the snowfall occurred during a time when almond trees begin blossoming.
“This year due to winter snowfall we expect a bumper almond crop,” he said.
The snowfall also improved prospect of going for new plantations and with many new growers intending to go for high density plantation replacing their older varieties
Chief Horticulture Officer Pulwama, Farooq Ahmad Mirza said that this year heavy snowfall at appropriate time has rekindled hope for better crops. “The snowfall on time not only helps in maintaining water cycle but also helps in suitable dissolution of fertilizers and minerals,” Mirza said