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India - Uttarkashi district: Area under cultivation up, but apple production halved

Apple production in India's Uttarkashi district has dropped drastically; from 32,900 tons in 2012 to only 15,445 tons in 2017, according to data with the state horticulture department. The decline has occurred even though a higher area is now under cultivation in the district. Experts have blamed excessive pesticide use and climate change for apple trees producing less fruit.

Extreme climatic conditions can prevent apple trees from meeting the chilling requirements. Apple trees have the highest chilling requirements of all fruit trees, demanding up to 1,200 hours of chilling.

According to data accessed by the Times of India, 7,333 hectares in the district were under cultivation in 2012 when 32,900 tons of apple was produced. By 2017, 8,953 hectares were under cultivation but production had dropped to 15,445 tons. In 2017, incessant rain and hailstorms had affected the fruit in apple producing belts of Uttarkashi, Dehradun, Nainital and Chamoli districts. The data of apple production in 2018 is not yet available.

N K Singh, deputy director of Uttarkashi horticulture department, told Times of India: "Changes in climatic conditions, excessive use of pesticides and old techniques of farming are some major reasons behind decline in apple production. Another reason is that 60% of apple orchards in the district date back to the 1990's and are bearing less fruit now. The new trees will take time to bear fruit."

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