Shimla, Nov 26: Global warming leading to shortened winters is gradually forcing apple cultivators to move to the higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh, but this trend has not assumed alarming proportions.
This is mainly because the crispy and crunchy Royal Delicious and Red Delicious apple varieties of the state are more susceptible to the affects of global warming and cultivators are preferring the cool climate of the upper reaches.
Confirming this aspect among apple growers, Associate Director of Regional Horticulture Research Station at Mashobra, P S Chauhan said that studies have shown that production of the delicious apple varieties had registered a decline in recent years in the lower reaches of the state.
Dr Chauhan pointed out that as compared to the 1960's or 1970's there has been a substantial reduction in the duration of the winter season in the last one decade or so. A long winter is always a boon for apple growers as technically this period is known as the 'chilling hours', he said while pointing out that the temperature for apple trees should be between 0-8 degree Celsius from 1000 hours to 1500 hours.
The delicious varieties require the 'chilling treatment' for a better harvest, Dr Chauhan said while pointing out that shortened winters due to global warming have an adverse affect on apple production. In the higher altitudes the 'chilling hours' are more prolonged around the year so there is general tendency of cultivators to have orchard at places where the climate is idially suited to the crop.
Citing an example, Dr Chahaun said that Y S Parmar University of Horticulture and Forstery has set up an apple production centre at Tabo of Lahual and Spiti district and the result here has been very positive. The Tabo centre has shown that apple production is much higher than the mid-hills of the state.
He said that production centre at Tabo sold apples at an attractive price of Rs 1000 per box at the orchard site.
There are some higher belts where new apple orchids have come come up in recent years. These areas include the higher reaches of Narkanda, Khada Pather, lower areas of Kinnaur and Lahaul Spiti.
He said that the ideal height for apples is from 8500 feet to 10,000 feet but there are some parts in the state where apple production is as good as in the upper reaches, like Karsog which is at a height of 6000 ft of Mandi district.
While acknowledging that the shortened winter duration had affected apple production, Dr Chauhan said that other fruits have also been affected. Agronomical studies showed that horticulturists of lower parts of state are changing their cropping pattern rather than migrating to the upper reaches in large numbers. Fruit growers just cannot move to the higher reaches as "the higher you go, less will be the availability of the land", so they prefer to switch to other crops, he added.
Dr Chauhan said that growers are also switching over to peaches, apricots, almond, kiwi and strawberry production. These crops are as good as apple in terms of economical importance, he pointed out.
State Meteorological Station Director, Manmohan Singh said that as per data available with his department there is no such indication of global warming in the hills.
He said that variation in temperature depends upon a number of factors like height and topography of areas. He said that Met Office data does not indicate any major shift in the climatic parameters of hills and there is no immediate threat to the apple crop in the mid hills.