The fresh spell of moderate to heavy snowfall, followed by widespread rain in the tropical and sub-tropical zones, has brightened the prospects of bumper apple crop in the state this year. This would help improve the chances of better rabi crop production, especially in the rain-fed areas.
The prevailing weather conditions in the apple-growing belts, besides moderating the day temperature, have helped meet the required temperature for deciduous fruit orchards.
If the temperature, rainfall and average relative humidity remain favourable till the time of flowering and fruit setting, the apple production would break the previous year's record of 8 lakh tonnes.
So far, more 155cm snowfall has been recorded in the apple-growing regions, and the temperature has also remained below the freezing point for most of the period. Till date, 1,600 chilling hours (temperature below 7° Celsius) have already been met in January and February, considered most favourable for good apple crop.
Kandaghat regional horticultural research station's former head AS Kashyap said, "Since snowfall has been received intermittently, it will help in providing adequate moisture level in soil for a longer duration, which is required for better fruit production."
Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry vice-chancellor Vijay Singh Thakur said, "The rain and snowfall, besides helping meet the requirement of 600 to 1,400 hours in deciduous fruit-growing areas, have also hopefully decreased the chances of erratic flowering in orchards."
He added that besides lessening the chances of insect and pest attacks, precipitation and decrease in day temperature would help stop premature blooming in deciduous fruit orchards and also fulfill the requirement of relative humidity factor and natural irrigation system.
Member of the national executive of Bharatiya Janata Party's Kisan Morcha Devinder Thakur said widespread rain had come as a "boon" to the farming community, as it had helped meet the soil moisture requirement for various rabi crops in the state.
Apple occupies about half of the total area under fruit production in Himachal, and contributes nearly 90% to the total fruit production. Apple is being grown over one lakh hectare in Shimla, Mandi, Kinnaur, Lahaul and Sipiti, Chamba and parts of Solan and Sirmour districtse during the past few decades, and apple cultivation has played a major role in transforming the socio-economic conditions of the growers.