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Climate change is stealing the sweetness from Himachali apples

Change in temperature and erratic weather play havoc with apple and wheat production of the state

(Photo: Tom Swinnen, Unsplash)
(Photo: Tom Swinnen, Unsplash)

It was about time. Unpredictable weather conditions, brought on by climate change has affected apple and wheat production in Himachal Pradesh. A Press Trust of India (PTI) story published on Wednesday pointed out, “Changing weather patterns of dry winters and rainy summers have created double trouble for Himachal Pradesh's farmers who have suffered huge losses in seasonal crops and plants.”

The story reported that the total damage of agricultural produce and horticulture plants, like apples, until May was pegged at around 104 crore for the former, and 63.42 crore (approx)for the latter. The data was shared by the state’s emergency operation centre.

The cause for the devastating loss lies in changing climatic patterns as there was long dry spell in winter and untimely rains during summer, said Rajesh Kaushik, State Agriculture Director to PTI.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Last year, there was an erratic rise in temperature with heat waves in April-May, unprdictable snow and rain patterns which shrunk the chilling hours of apple. Chilling hours refer to a cool time period that’s essential for apple buds to develop flowers. If this time period, or chilling hours, are not sufficient the buds don’t blossom. An Outlook story published in June 2022, notes the optimum temperature for chilling hours is 7 degree celsius. Deepak Singha, a Kotgarh orchardist and co-founder of Himachali Fruit Producers Corporation was quoted in the story as saying, “Climate now is undoubtedly the biggest casualty. There is a clear rise of temperature up to 1.5 degree Celsius. The traditional varieties of apple plants that have sustained in our orchards for the past 40 years or more cannot bear fruits in the warmer climate. The apples at a height of 5-6,000 feet are shifting the habitat at least 1,000 feet because their chilling hours can’t be met at this height anymore now.”

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