Apple growers fear losses, damage to orchards due to Alterneria outbreak

GULZAR BHAT
Shopian, Publish Date: Jul 20 2018 12:56AM | Updated Date: Jul 20 2018 12:56AM
Apple growers fear losses, damage to orchards due to Alterneria outbreakFile Photo

Whenever it rains, and that has been happening quiet often this summer, the fruit growers in the southern districts of Kashmir become a worried lot. Reason: the outbreak of devastating fungal disease Alternaria on apple trees due to intermittent rains has been spelling doom for orchards.

"Alternaria has affected more than 50 percent of my orchard and the things go downhill with more rains" says Hilal Ahmad, a fruit grower of Imamsahab, Shopian. 

Alternaria is a fungal pathogen that affects the leaves of apple trees. In this disease, small yellow patches first appear on the surface of the leaves that ultimately causes the defoliation and damage to fruits. The disease, according to experts, is caused due to frequent rains and water logging in the orchard during the summers.

Besides other parts of Kashmir, in the four districts of south Kashmir--Shopian, Pulwama, Kulgam and Anantnag-- hundreds of hectares of land under the apple cultivation are affected by the disease, causing anxiety among the apple growers. 

"The leaves of my orchard are witling fast due to the Alternaria causing much harm to the fruit," said Mohammad Amin Dar, an apple grower from Pulwama.

 Mushtaq Ahmad Malik, president Fruit Growers and Zamindar Association said that the disease has caused huge damage to the fruit in four south Kashmir districts.

"The damage could have been contained if the authorities had woken up on time," Malik said.

Many orchardists in Shopian and Kulgam alleged that field staff of horticulture department did not assist the apple growers as they were largely attached with offices.  

"The field staff of horticulture department never undertake field visits or guide farmers in grave situations," said Ghulam Mohammad Khan, an orchardist of district Kulgam.

Chief Horticulture Officer, Shopian, Abdul Hamid said that the department in collaboration with the SKUAST’s Krishi Vigyan Kendras is generating awareness about the disease and its prevention among the orchardists. 

Similarly horticulture officials at Anantnag, Pulwama and Kulgam districts said that they are also holding various awareness camps in their respective districts. 

The apple production for the year 2017-2018 in Shopian district was about 3.14 lakh metric tons while it was 2.22 lakh metric tons and 1.37 lakh metric tons for Anantnag and Pulwama districts respectively. Kulgam district has produced 2.03 lakh metric tons for 2017-2018.

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