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Winter snowfall crucial for Kashmir’s agricultural prosperity, say experts

 Winter snowfall crucial for Kashmir’s agricultural prosperity, say experts

Stress strategic water management practices, drought-resistant crop varieties, adaptive agri techniques

Jahangeer Ganaie

Srinagar, Jan 09 (KNO): Snowfall in the winter season is indispensable for the Kashmir region as it plays a vital role in irrigating agriculture and horticulture crops, according to experts.

Speaking with the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), renowned glaciologist, climate change researcher, and earth scientist, Professor Shakil A Romshoo, said winter snowfall provides essential water for crops and contributes significantly to the region's water security when it melts during spring and summer.

“Our research findings have confirmed a strong positive correlation between the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and winter precipitation in the Kashmir region. In months where the NAO index is greater than 1 (positive), the subtropical jet is significantly more intense than in months where the NAO index is less than 1 (negative). Positive NAO leads to more active western disturbances (WDs) that bring the majority of winter precipitation to the Kashmir region", he explained.

“However, we had a negative NAO during December 2023 and a strongly negative NAO is predicted for January 2024, which could easily be one of the top four most negative NAOs of the past 25 years, leading to very low snowfall during December and January months this winter,” he added.

Romshoo expressed concern about potential water shortages during the summer due to less-than-normal snowfall, impacting the water-intensive paddy culture in Kashmir. While it is too early to predict snowfall/rainfall for February, March, and April, which are typically wet months, he remains hopeful for sufficient precipitation during this period.

Dr Suhaib A Bandh, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at S P College Srinagar, highlighted that prolonged dry weather adversely affects orchards and fruit crops in Kashmir, posing substantial challenges to agricultural productivity. “Dry spells disrupt natural irrigation patterns, reduce water availability for crops, and create conditions favourable for pests and diseases, impacting fruit trees' growth and development,” he said.

Dr Bandh said there is a need for strategic water management practices, drought-resistant crop varieties, and adaptive agricultural techniques to mitigate the impact of prolonged dry weather on Kashmir's vital fruit crops.

Dr Tariq Rasool, a senior scientist at SKAUST, acknowledged the uncertainty in predicting the impact of the current period on next year's farming. While there may be enough precipitation in the remaining winter days, a prolonged dry winter could potentially lead to fruit quality issues next year, he said.

"If the whole winter turns dry, there are likely chances of fruit quality issues next year depending on various other factors,” Dr Tariq added—(KNO)

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