Apple growers under pressure in Kashmir

The non-fungal fungus Venturia inaequalis is the common cause of apple scab, a disease of many plants in the rose family (Rosaceae). Although several plant genera, including Sorbus, Cotoneaster, and Pyrus, are affected by this disease, it is often associated with infection of Malus trees, especially the flowering crabapple and apple varieties.

With the change of climate in recent years, scab disease has affected the apples that grow in the valley. Described by experts as a “crop failure”, scab has taken over many orchards in parts of northern and southern Kashmir.

According to some local media reports, the recent “early” rains have posed a major threat to the apple crop.

Apple growers under pressure in Kashmir

Speaking to the Land Report website, Jacob, an apple farmer from southern Kashmir, said, “It is very disappointing to see diseases at this point in our crop, two years earlier the weather was saying snow and early hail storm destroyed our crops, now these Black dots.” He added, “Even after everything that follows in the book, every pesticide and spray, this result is a major concern for our crop.”

Sharing his plight and concern, he said, “We are mostly dependent on apple crops and if these crops don’t go as planned, it will be a serious blow to our expectations.”

However, Jacob also showed his hope and said, “We keep trying and doing everything we can, we pray and hope things get better.”

Earlier this month, a delegation of apple growers from North Kashmir told a local news agency about their plight and asked the horticultural department to intervene.

Apple scab rarely causes death of the host plant, but infection usually results in fruit deformation, leaf drop, and early fruit, increasing the host plant’s sensitivity to abiotic stress and secondary infection.

Apple growers’ ability to maintain their profits could be seriously threatened by crop losses of up to 70% due to reduced fruit quality and yield. When preventing the occurrence and spread of apple scab on their crops, farmers often mix proactive methods such as sanitation and resistance breeding with reactive methods such as targeted fungicides or biocontrol treatments.

Another apple grower from South Kashmir, Mushtaq Ahmed had a chat with Ground Report and shared his concerns. He said, “Our livelihood depends on our apple crops, the current situation is not good, the new disease of these black spots is very worrying for us, and this can ruin our hard work all year long.” He also said, “Past seasons have also not been kind to our crops. We have used every pesticide and spray and this is out of control.”

He appealed to the authorities, saying, “We want the authority to take note of such things and help us with expert opinions on how to stop this.”

The Kashmir Ministry of Horticulture earlier also issued an advisory report titled “Plant Protection Consultation 2022” earlier in the form of a booklet, according to which apple growers need to follow certain instructions.

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