Crescent Kashmir

Fearful of untimely snowfall, apple growers begin early pruning of trees

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Shopian: Haunted still by memories of last year’s untimely snowfall in early November and its resultant havoc in the horticulture sector, apple growers in south Kashmir have gone for early pruning of fruit trees, in the beginning of October itself; something which has never been done at this stage before.
Even as this season’s e harvest is still lying in their orchards, many growers have started pruning their trees. Abdul Majeed Ganie, an orchardist from Mohanpora, said that all of the trees on his five kanals of orchard land developed cracks due to last year’s snow. “If similar snow occurs this year, I will have only wood left to take from my trees. Their condition isn’t such that it can bear more snow like last year’s,” he said.
Nisar Ahmad Dar, another apple grower in Shopian, said that he has picked his delicious Kulu variety of apples and has started pruning of the trees even as he has yet to pack and sell the produce of the same.
The majority of the crop is yet to be picked from the trees but orchardists are carrying out pruning of the trees from which they have picked the fruit. Those growers whose crop was heavily affected by fungal scab this year have left the fruit unpicked and opted for pruning, even when the day temperature remains above 20 degrees Celsius.
Last year’s snowfall which was witnessed on November 3 damaged about 30 percent of the fruit trees in Kashmir, according to government figures, and tonnes of apple spoiled on the trees due to the snow. Apple growers say the government figures are an underestimate and that the damage was more than 50 percent. They said that the damage in fruit trees has led to massive decline in production this year, given the reduction of number of branches on trees.
A government relief of mere Rs 2,000 per kanal was given to the farmers and many of the orchardists are yet to receive even that amount.
Muhammad Akbar is among the orchardists who have started pruning in the beginning of October. “We have never carried it out at this stage before. Last year we were about to go for pruning in November but snowfall occurred and created havoc. Traditionally, pruning is usually started at the beginning of December, but those were times when there used to be no snowfall in November,” he said.
According to senior SKUAST pathology scientist Dr Tariq Rasool, opting for pruning at this stage is wrong. “It will affect the health of trees. The leaves are containing photosynthates and if we cut them at this stage when they are green, it means we are cutting the food supply to the trees and all the energy which the leaves contain is being wasted,” he said.
Dr Rasool added that only at the stage when leaves are turning yellow should pruning be carried out, as then the leaves have transferred their energy to the trees and the photosynthates act as energy store for the trees.
“Pruning at this stage also removes the top edge of the branches and keeps the injuries caused by the saws more intensive,” he said.
About 50 percent of Kashmir’s horticulture land is under apple cultivation and the valley on average produces 25 lakh metric tonnes of apple every year.
According to growers, there has been a huge decline in production due to last year’s snow which caused heavy damage in the fruit trees.


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