Pulwama: After incurring huge losses in the past few years, the horticulture industry is now facing the threat of big thorny rodents that peel the bark of fruit trees and leave them dead.
Known as the backbone of the economy of Kashmir, the horticulture industry was hit hard by early snowfalls, clampdown after the abrogation of 370, followed by Covid-19, supply of Iranian apple via Afghanistan and other issues.
Now, porcupines have wreaked havoc on orchards and fields in different parts of Kashmir by peeling the bark of apple, almond and other trees besides damaging vegetables and eating corns of saffron.
Orchardists from different areas of Kashmir said that porcupines have peeled off whole bark from the stem of their trees and eventually the trees would be dead incoming months.
They said that it takes around two decades to grow an apple tree to full size and porcupines take 10 minutes to leave the tree dead, “thereby destroying our investment.”
Orchardists said that presently almond trees are being damaged in different areas of Kashmir by porcupines.
Residents of Rohmoo, Tujan, Kamrazipora, Goosu, Frasipora, Koil, Malangpora, Renzipora, Wasoora and other villages of Pulwama and Budgam district said that porcupines have heavily damaged their apple and almond trees.
“If one looks towards widespread damage, it seems there are thousands of porcupines in the area,” they said.
Farmers complained that the rodents are also damaging their vegetables by uprooting them as well as saffron by eating corn.
“We request the horticulture department to look into the matter and come up with a solution,” they said.
A senior horticulture officer said that they have already advised farmers to cover the stump with jute bags or a wire mesh.
A senior wildlife officer said that since porcupines are in thousands it will take time to address the issue.
He said that farmers must use poultry mesh for making a guard and for small trees farmers can use pepper.
“The growing of irises in the orchards where the porcupine attacks are frequent can also prove helpful as it is a natural remedy to keep the rodents away from orchards. It’s a plant that one can see in graveyards, where it keeps rats and other rodents away from the graves,” they said—(KNO)