Climate Change

Climate change may be causing an apple crisis in Himachal and Kashmir this year; here’s how

Climate change is causing bees to die in Himachal Pradesh and the Kashmir Valley, leading to major losses for apple growers in the region

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 22 May 2023

Climate change is causing bees to die in Himachal Pradesh and the Kashmir Valley, leading to major losses for apple growers in the region.

Apple production is estimated to decrease by about 30 per cent in Himachal Pradesh and 20 per cent in the Kashmir Valley this time, according to reports.

But the situation is not just limited to bees. Major pollinators have all fallen victim to sudden changes in the climate among other factors. So, let’s take a look at this crisis.

Apple cultivation generates an annual turnover of about Rs 5,000 crore in Himachal Pradesh every year. But this year, things didn’t go as planned.

“This year, when it rained in mid-April, bees in our garden died in their boxes. They didn’t get a chance to come out. When they did not come out, our apple crop could not be pollinated. Due to this, there is going to be a loss of 30 to 35 % in apple production,” Marshall Thakur, an apple grower from Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district, told DTE.

Almost every apple grower in Himachal Pradesh is distressed about the lack of pollination of apple flowers which could potentially lead to a huge revenue loss for the state.

Just north of the state, apples have also been damaged this time in the Kashmir Valley. Farmers have told DTE that sudden rain and a drop in temperature at the time of ‘setting’, may have contributed to a 20 to 30 per cent loss in the production of apples.

‘Setting’ is a temporary phase between the pollination of flowers and the development of fruits. The annual turnover from apple cultivation in Kashmir is Rs 8,000 to Rs 10,000 crore, which is about 10 per cent of the total gross domestic product.

A study by Tamil Nadu Agricultural University shows that pollination from bees increased apple production by 44 per cent. But climate change is causing the deaths of bees across Himachal.

Himachal Pradesh has two species of bees that are used for large and commercial pollination. These are the Apis mellifera or Italian bee and the Apis cerana indica or the Indian bee.

Cerana usually flies less than a kilometre and flies between 16 and 21°C and in low light. While the Italian bee flies up to 6 kilometres at temperatures between 21 and 25°C.

Due to these qualities, mellifera is more agile than native bees and can reach up to 25 to 30 flowers in a minute.

But the increase in the number of Italian Bees has led to the gradual decline of native bees along with the clearing of forests for farming and horticulture.

This has also led to a decrease in the habitat and plants which supply food to these insects.

Apple farmers in the region also note that though the Italian bees could withstand a rise in temperature, they will die in lower temperatures, which is what happened this year.

With climate change, the temperatures are becoming more erratic in the Himalayan region, which will affect apple cultivation even further in Himachal and Kashmir.

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