Changing weather patterns are wreaking havoc on Indian apples, robbing them of their deep red colour and premium quality
ROTTEN FATE: Bilal Ahmed Qureshi with disfigured fruit in Kolipora, Budgam (Photo: Abid Bhat)
Back in 2005, 54-year-old Mohammad Rajab, like others in Bridhaji village in Pahalgam, left maize cultivation and planted apple trees on his 4.5 kanals of land. Apple farming had brought prosperity to many of his neighbours in the village of 150 households, after many of them converted their maize fields into apple orchards from 2000 onwards. Rajab would arrive early in the morning to tend to his apple trees. He would regularly spray them with pesticides and nutrients and employ scientific techniques such as maintaining 10-20 feet distance between them. When the fruit was ripening, he would stay the night at the orchard to protect it from wild bears. “I nurtured the orchard like a child,” says Rajab, in the hope that it would fetch him quality yield and profit. Over the past three years, however, recurrent economic losses have forced Rajab to reconsider apple farming.