In wake of present global climate change, a direct impact on apple crop is seen in Himachal Pradesh. Over a century ago, Sachidnand Strokes didn’t think about the fate of apples in the region. Experts say, if a crop is not natural resident of a region but is a foreigner to similar biotic environment, it will multiply rapidly and then there will be a fall in the growth, losing its natural resistance. Somehow, I feel its happening to apple in Himachal.
In 1995 my father had been to Nauni University as part of a delegation from our Block. Even to this day he keeps quoting one Dr. John from US, who had taken some workshop on exchange of ideas about apple varieties and production techniques in the US. Dr. John and his team had forecasted apple production to be limited above 6,000 ft. by 2010. The conclusion was part of global research done by eminent US scientists’ team in wake of global climate change.
Since 2005, in a way I have been keeping a close watch on apple trends in Himachal, especially in Kotkhai-Jubbal and Rohru belt. In year 2007 snowfall has been limited to above 5,000 feet elevation and sufficient chilling hours I think has been limited above 6,000 ft. In 2008 the snowfall itself was limited up to 6,000 fts and sufficient chilling hours were limited above 7,500 fts in most of areas in of Himachal Pradesh. The results can be seen in the lower belts and lower middle belts as this year these areas are low in apple production.
The summer 2009 has been hotter than usual, deviating 5°C above the normal temperature all across Himachal Pradesh with longer dry spells. The Monsoon could have saved the apple production but the El Nino and La Nino effects weekend it around Deccan Pleatue and there has been not much substantial progress for two weeks.
Seeing the past trends of apple production, the horticulture department was optimistic of achieving a target of 7,00,000 tonnes of apple production. But nature had a different plan. Presently guestimate by various experts and formal estimates by the horticulture department are being pegged around 50% of the last year’s production.
The above production figures for the last 15 years clearly show a cyclic trend of apple production in HP. After a constant growth trend for about 4-5 years there is a sudden fall and most of these falls are due to change in climatic conditions. In year 1999 the production fell to 12.5% of the previous year’s production figures and in 2006 the apple production again saw a steep fall to about 50% as compared to previous year’s level. Both these years, if we remember, have been drought-affected years with scanty of snowfall and rainfall.
In year 1994 the area under apple production was about 75,000 hectares, which increased to over 90,000 hectares by year 2000. Since then the area under apple production has been more or less same.
This was the past and the near present we have seen and I hope that Monsoon will be good enough to save us our bread and better for this year at least, as no one can bet on future by drawing inferences form present climatic scenario. But there is some way ahead to be at least prepared for the future.
For that matter we the people of hills are well aware of global climate change and its future implication on humanity as a whole. (leave aside apples). On my recent visit to Shimla and beyond, I found that people are still not serious and mostly not aware about the business of climate change. Incessant forest fires in the hills right from Barog to Rohru were a common scene this year. The valleys were gutted in thick smoke, and for the first time in my life I couldn’t see the village on the other side of my valley.
In the long run, climatic eclipse might turn into a future apocalypse for apples in lower heights of HP. How long it will take, to know this we have to wait as no one can challenge nature and its cyclic wraths. (I am saying wait here, because seeing the present attitude I don’t think we are preparing or trying to avert this imminent apocalypse)
(Most of the figures and facts are from recent news items and can be crosschecked for authenticity before making it public)