‘Unusual’ weather worries farmers, fruit growers

Ishtyaq Ahmad

Srinagar, Jun 17: With rainfall in June bringing down temperatures across Kashmir, the unusual weather pattern is turning into a cause of worry for farmers and fruit growers.
Farmers are already feeling the heat due to freaky weather. “Our apple crop is almost 50 percent damaged while other fruits and vegetables have been completely wiped off as rains and hailstorm lashed Kashmir right from the time of flowering,” Kursheed Ahmad, a farmer from north Kashmir said.
“Secondly, the plunging temperature and wet weather makes our fruit plants susceptible to diseases like scab and we have to spend extra amount to spray them with fungicides and insecticides more frequently. For 50 percent less crop we have to spend 200 percent more.”
Officials at Horticulture department also present a gloomy picture. “We won’t say fruits and vegetables are completely destroyed, but it has been hit badly,” one of the Horticulture officials said. “On one hand we are assessing the damage and on the other trying to help farmers by expert counseling and compensation.”
May and June are crucial for paddy cultivation in Kashmir since rice saplings are transplanted from nurseries to the fields. However, frequent rain has not only affected the transplantation operations, but also hampered the normal growth of saplings in the nurseries. “Our fodder crop did not grow to the right length this spring. Now, frequent rains are affecting rice transplantation, even as chilly weather caused stunted growth of the saplings in the nurseries,” said a visibly worried Javaid Ahmad, 44, a farmer in north Kashmir Kupwara.
Fruit growers too are worried about moisture in their orchards, which acts as a catalyst for fungal and parasitic diseases in trees, besides causing an explosion in pests’ numbers. “Fungal diseases explode in orchards in wet weather conditions since moisture remains on leaves and trunks of apple trees for longer periods,” said one of the, professors at the Srinagar agricultural university.
“Pests like hairy caterpillar – also called gypsy moth – grow better in rainy conditions.” “These pests devour leaves and other fleshy parts of the tree, destroying both the fruit and the plant,” he added.
What is adding to the growing worries of farmers and fruit growers alike is the fact that local weather forecasts do not hold good news for them in the near future as well. (KNS)