Indian Apple Farmers Head to Himalayas

Climate change driving industry up

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Quaker missionary Samuel Evans Stokes first introduced American Red Delicious apple trees to India in 1916 and they have grown there ever since, supporting a robust apple farming industry. But now the trees are threatened by a changing climate, driving farmers further and further up into the Himalayas to grow their crops.

Rapid warming has opened many high-altitude areas such as Kinnaur and Lahaul, previously thought to be too cold and dry, to cultivation. According to a Harvard study, average surface temperature rose by 1.5 degrees C since 1982, a whole degree grater than the global average.

Snowfall in the region has also been decreasing by 36 millimeters annually. This is terrible for Red Delicious trees, which require 1,200 to 1,400 hours below 7 degrees centigrade annually. One recent study shows that suitable low-altitude apple growing areas have been reduced by almost 77% since 1981. Farmers unable to relocate to higher altitudes are suddenly finding themselves sitting on subtropical land.

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