Fruit growers in Himachal Pradesh are increasingly taking to commercial cultivation of the exotic kiwi fruit. Horticulture experts say it’s a good step towards crop diversification and fetching them good returns too. Successful cultivation of kiwi along with pomegranate, cherry and strawberry by progressive farmers in the state has encouraged the horticulture experts to promote the cultivation of this fruit crop, a shift from traditional apple cultivation. “Mid-hills and valleys of Solan, Shimla, Sirmaur, Mandi and Kullu districts are ideally suited for kiwi cultivation. It’s ideal for crop diversification and has a market among high-end consumers,” Sudhir Katiha, assistant project officer of the state horticulture department, told IANS in Shimla. He said in certain areas the production of apple has been severely affected by climate changes. “In certain pockets of Kullu, Mandi and Shimla districts, the production of apple has declined due to climatic changes. Apple orchards require 1,000 to 1,600 hours of chill, while kiwi requires just 200 hours of chill for a favourable crop. Farmers in the areas where the chilling hours are not static now have opted for kiwi cultivation as a cash crop,” he said. Read more at http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/015200901131041.htm