Unreliable behavior of weather has once again shattered the whole farming community and all those associated with trade of farming especially fruit crops in the valley. Farmers had hardly came out of the trauma they faced in the process of harvesting, grading, packing and selling of their produce under prevailing situation in the valley, untimely snow did rest to dash their hopes to the ground.
They died hundreds of times with fear in the process after working in sun and rain with a hope to earn and then support their families in this era of expensive living. I have never witnessed such scale of damage to apple orchards before. Words fail to explain the pain of farmers after this episode of untimely snowfall, as the losses are huge.
It will take many years to repair these losses and thus it is high time that all concerned agencies should come forward and lend a helping hand to the farmers in this difficult time in the best way possible. It is time to understand that all matters related to the life of a farming family revolve round their farm resources.
Besides earning a living for family, future planning in terms of construction of house, education of children, marriage of children , clothing, medication and so on is done with money they earn from farming. Untimely snowfall and erratic behavior of other weather parameters has now become a routine.
Last year snowfall of November 3 being untimely and this year too saw very first day of May bring hailstorm and the recent November 7 snow.
The message from these changing weather patterns is clear that there climate changes happening. Who is responsible for this change and how to reverse it is a different issue to discuss but what is more important at this point of time is that how to tackle the situation in the best possible way.
During visits to different apple orchards along with line department officials including Chief Horticulture Officer Kulgam we observed that losses are huge in terms of uprooting, splitting of main trunk, breaking of laterals,loss of un-harvested fruit and so on. We observed that famers who managed to clear snow from trees on the day of snowfall have suffered negligible plant damage. Famers who had done advanced pruning also suffered very less plant damage. Those who have trained trees scientifically (very less in number) have suffered minimum damage.
We found that faulty training and pruning maytherefore be ranked the top reason for such a scale of damage. Losses were less in spur varieties compared to traditional varieties like red delicious and very less in High density apple orchards with trellis system.
In view of the above observations it could be understood that there is urgent need to focus on canopy management in the fruit crops and for that a close coordination between university and line department is need of the hour so that training and awareness camps on canopy management are intensified. More over results of studies on advance pruning, high concentration urea spray for defoliation and other possible interventions need to be taken to the door steps of the farmers and they in turn must adopt these practices in letter and spirit to save their crops from such damages. In the dissemination of techniques print and electronic media shall play a vital role. Besides plant repair techniques need to be demonstrated to the farmers. Finally I urge my fellow collogues associated with fruit science to share their expertise through media also so that in future such losses can be avoided to the extent possible.
—The author is a Sr. Scientist & Head KVK-Kulgam,SKUAST-Kashmir and c an be reached at [email protected]