Kashmir To Enjoy Bumper Crops, Fruit28 January 2011
Srinagar: Winter chill notwithstanding, the timely snowfall this winter, almost after over a decade, has rekindled the hopes and prospects of a good agri and horticulture crop this year. This, experts hope, will help in recharging the glaciers. Besides, the persisting cold conditions in winter are expected to help in flowering and fruit formations, a good sign for horticulture industry of Kashmir. Last time that the Kashmir Valley, falling in the temperate zone, received good amount of snow was in 2003-2004. However, the activity was usually witnessed in mid-February, when the winter temperatures in Valley are slightly up as compared to December and January months. Beyond these years, the Valley in general experienced almost cold and dry winters, with occasional but meager snowfall ending February. According to agriculture and environmental scientists, the snowfall witnessed between December and January months are considered beneficial for the agri and horticulture crop production. “The snowfall witnessed this year is a blessing. This is timely, in a sense, that the persisting cold temperatures have ensured that the snow gets solidified into what we call snow rocks at higher peaks and glaciers,” said Dr Farooq A Lone, Associate Professor at Environmental Sciences Division, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Sciences and Technology, Shalimar Srinagar. “This phenomenon has now recharged our glaciers, and we hope that in the coming months of April and May we won’t face any irrigation problems, as by then these recharged glaciers will definitely feed our drinking water resources and irrigation systems. This activity will definitely act as a boost for our agriculture and horticulture crop,” Lone said. The timely snowfall this winter is also considered as good omen for the fruit industry and horticulture sector of Valley, also known as 'Fruit Bowl of South Asia'. “Not only existing orchards but the moisture in the soil is going to help new trees planted by the growers. The apple orchards located in the upper parts of the Valley will get benefited from this snowfall as the snow will remain there for longer duration to increase the water table in those areas,” said Ghulam Hassan Shah, Director Horticulture, Kashmir. For temperate crops of Kashmir like apple, apricot, almond, cherry, walnut, cold temperatures and moist conditions during winter months are necessary. “If cold temperature accompanied with good snow accumulation persists in winter months of January and February, these conditions are definitely going to help in flowering and fruit formations. And if all goes well, we expect a bumper horticulture and agriculture season this year,” said Lone. The J&K State produces around 18 to 22 lakh metric tons of different varieties of fresh and dry fruit, with 80 percent of production comprising different apple varieties. Officials estimates reveal that over 10 lakh people are directly or indirectly associated with the fruit industry in Kashmir. “We have received timely snow after nearly 15 years. God willing, this snowfall will prove beneficial for all sorts of horti and agriculture products,” said an upbeat Haji Muhammad Sultan Lone of Ushkara village, a leading apple grower of Baramulla. The farmers in Kashmir's countryside are also happy over the timely snowfall, as the upper reaches of North and South received more than three feet of snow in the first week of January. “Due to the shortage of water for past few years, we did not go for paddy cultivation. But, this year, we will not only cultivate paddy but are hopeful of good yield also,” said Ghulam Muhammad Khan of Puthukha Muqam, falling under Sangrama constituency of Baramulla. The Met Department has forecast more snowfall in the coming weeks, thus further elevating the prospects of increase in depleted water table and more discharge in the streams and rivers.