Apple orchards hit by heavy snowfall

SRINAGAR: The recent snow has weighed down heavily on the apple growers in the Valley, with many areas reporting damage to fruit trees.
An apple grower in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, one of the major apple producing areas of Kashmir, Rukhsar Ahmad told Kashmir Reader on the phone uprooting of the apple trees and snapping of branches due to heavy snowfall is common sight in many of the orchards in the area.
Ahmad said that even with pruning carried on time, severe snowfalls in March, which is mostly rare has been a burden on the trees and vegetation.
Some of the trees are in a very bad shape and there is overall damage of 15 percent to 20 percent, said Ahmad, who has an orchard running over a hectare of land.
Similar story was repeated from a number orchardists across the Valley. However, south Kashmir has witnessed more damage, according the fruit growers.
There has been also reports of damage to walnut trees, almond trees as well.
However, Horticulture Department officials say that they can yet say any thing about the damage as they are still assessing it. However they agreed that there are reports of low to medium damage across the Valley and a clear picture will emerge in next two or three days.
“We are expecting that the damage may not be widespread, though we are collecting data on the damage from all the areas,” a horticulture officer said.
Chief horticulture officer, Pulwama, Farooq Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that in their district there are preliminary reports of damage to almond trees and they are accessing the extent of this damage.
About the damage to the apple trees he said that any branches that have been broken need to be pruned and in case of some breakages blots can be fitted to put the trees back in shape, while for the uprooted ones restorative measures can be taken after the snow phase is over.
About this snow causing more damage than the previous ones, Nasir Hussain an horticulture expert said that the moisture level in the ground was high and the trees too had begin to weigh as they were regaining liveliness with the arrival of spring.
The damage could have been much worse had this much of snow been received 15 days later, even though wrong pruning and delay in pruning could have also cause damage to the trees in many orchards, but there are remedial measures that can be carried after the snow phase is over.
He said that growers should prepare for such a rare occurrence and carry proper pruning to limit the damage of fruit trees.
“A professional inspection of fruit trees for balance and weight issues have to be addressed throughout the winter months so that, trees need to be balanced and able to stand upright.
Meanwhile on the agricultural front a spring thaw set by the recent snow is expected to delay the Kharief crops sowing by almost a week with experts saying that this snow could boost the crop production.
Director Agriculture, Kashmir, Mushtaq Ahmad Shah said that recent snow has not hit the prospects of the present crop, but snowing of Kharief crops can be delayed by a week or 10 days.
Agri experts have warned farmers that waterlogging that will aggravate by the melting snow has to be addressed by providing proper drainage and water channels for carrying the excess water that could damage the present agri crops of oats, mustard and horticulture trees.