As parts of the state reel under a cold wave, grape growers are worried for their crop as they are accustomed to low temperatures only after February. Parts of Maharashtra have witnessed a cold wave over the past few days, with the temperature dipping below normal. Nashik, the main grape growing region of the state, has reported temperatures below 3 degrees Celsius.
Other grape-growing regions such as Pune, Solapur and Sangli have not reported extreme temperatures with the minimum range between 14 and 15 degrees Celsius. The day-time temperature in most parts of the state is around 30 degrees Celsius.
Jagannath Khapre, president, grape exporters association, said the weather conditions were not conducive for the crop. A majority of the grapes were in the early or late stage of berry formation and such temperatures will surely harm them. “In areas where the humidity is high, the present temperature will result in what is called cold injury with the berries turning pink. This kind of a crop fails to command a good price with farmers having to harvest it earlier than normal,” he added.
Growers have little or no options to prevent damage to their bunches. The weather forecast issued by Pune-based National Research Center for Grapes — an institute of Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) — admits no chemical method has been found to control this.
“Covering the individual bunch with paper is the only solution at present. Bunches are to be covered with paper 8 to 10 days before the veraison (onset of ripening or change of colour of the grape berries),” stated the latest advisory. Another problem is scorching of leaves as the vine stops functioning in extreme cold conditions. This affects berry formation that results in lower yields. Farmers have been advised to artificially raise the temperature by lighting temporary fires under the canopy but a majority said this was not feasible. Khapre said farmers lacked the raw material necessary to create such bonfires and many did not have labour enough to do the work.
“We’ll know the full extent of the damage after four days when we undertake a survey,” said Khapre. For growers, however, the cold wave has come at a time when they were expecting a good harvest and increase in exports.