Apple orchards have been highly prioritized in the development path adopted by several Himalayan regions. So it is important to emphasize that the apple orchards t should opt for more sustainable paths, instead of going in for hurried ways which may prove to be costly later and cause ecological ruin as well.
The creation of apple orchards over large areas itself involves creating monocultures but in addition this is made worse by the craze for introducing exotic varieties. A large amount of apple planting material was imported in Himachal Pradesh from Italy in 2019 and predictably now the experience has been that much of this has not sprouted at all, or what is worse, has developed disease.
The problems inherent in this approach are still not being appreciated properly, and there is more emphasis on late planting in summer conditions. Although this was a factor of course but this was related to the weakness of the entire approach, the dependence on imported material and the imports getting delayed. The risks of spreading diseases to indigenous varieties should also be considered in a proper evaluation and it is best to avoid a path of high risks.
Other recent reports on apple orchards here draw attention to the unauthorized sprays of those plant growth regulators which have not been cleared yet for their desirability. This can also have adverse impacts, according to concerned scientific officials.
These are just two recent example of trends in apple orchards of hurried efforts to increase yields which are best avoided. Similarly at the level of food processing and trade there is more of a trend towards wine-making and exports using big industrial units, while the prospects of local village-level processing and value added, making healthy jams using apples as well as other fruits, for instance, should actually be getting more support as this can generate much more employment at local level. The prospects for employment for women from weaker sections to get such work can get more support from the government as well which can support their self-help groups for more such ventures.
Also in terms of end-use of fruits and the nutrition provided by them , the government can take this to children and women from weaker sections by providing more apples in mid-day meals and anganwadi centers of the state. Similar efforts can be made by other apple growing states as well.
Also all over the region growing apples and other fruits which are marketed on a vast scale, there is a need to ensure that the packaging materials are environment-friendly and do not lead to the felling of trees in nearby areas.
It is also very important to ensure that natural pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds are well-protected as, apart from their own great value, these also contribute to the sustainable success and yields of apple orchards and other fruit orchards. For this in turn it is very important to avoid the relentless destruction of natural life caused by chemical pesticides, insecticides and herbicides.
Nearby forests should be well-protected and indigenous mixed trees should be emphasized in the course of efforts to increase tree-cover. Water and soil conservation should get proper attention.
Bharat Dogra is a journalist and author. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children and Man Over Machine.