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Rodent terror strikes fruit growers in Kashmir as they suffer huge losses

Last Updated on March 9, 2021 at 7:49 pm

South Kashmir fruit farmers are facing a threat of big, thorny rodents that peel the bark of their trees and leave them almost dead.

These porcupines have sharp and pointed spikes on their bodies. They have caused a great deal of fear among almond and apple growers in the plateaus of Pulwama, Shopian and Budgam, damaging hundreds of trees. Ghulam Nabi, a villager from Rohmu, said that these animals have caused harm to around ten almond trees in his orchard to a point that they’ve become effectively dead. These trees have taken around 20 years to grow to full size.

Nabi said that many of his neighbours have also been affected by such attacks. Ajaz Ahmad Bhat, horticulture department director, sent officials to the affected areas to investigate the matter. The teams advised farmers to place wire mesh around trees’ stumps and lace them with pepper spray in order to protect them. Bhat also sought help of the wildlife department.

Nabi said that every tree in his orchard has around 20 to 40kg of almonds and he will lose Rs 60,000 this season. However, there is no clear data about exact losses but hundreds of trees have suffered losses in Newa, Rohmu, Tujan, Kamrazipora, Goosu, Frasipora, Chewa Kalan and Quil villages.

The farmers noticed these animals have started chipping barks from mid-February. Bashir Ahmad, a farmer from Tujan said that the porcupines started showing aggressive behaviour and would damage 10-15 trees every night. First, these animals targeted the almond trees and now they are targeting apple trees.

Mukesh Sharma, chief horticulture officer, Pulwama, advised the farmers to cover the stump with jute bags or a wire mesh. The Director of horticulture department told News18 that he asked his staff to spread awareness in farmers to check the menace themselves. They are also suggesting farmers to wrap the tree trunks with many layers of jute bags.

Suhail Intisar, senior wildlife warden for the Pulwama-Shopian range, assured that wildlife teams will use some artificial and natural repellents to help farmers. They are planning to grow Iris which works as a repellent, but its implementation will take times as they are spread in a vast area.

Farmers are hoping that porcupines will stop eating trees’ bark as soon as tubers and bulbs become available from April. These rodents will have sufficient food from the next month so they’ll stop visiting the orchards.