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Apple woes. Image source: http://www.expressindia.com

Across large tracts of land in Himachal Pradesh, hailstorms have wrecked havoc on various fruit and vegetable crops in the region. According to various reports, over 50% of apple bloom has been destroyed this year in the lower apple belts.

In a laudable initiative to minimize the losses suffered by farmers/growers due to inclement weather (hail), the government has installed anti-hail guns in Himachal Pradesh under a pilot project with a budget of 27 crores. This is the first time in India that anti-hail guns have been installed.

Anti-hail gun. Image source: http://www.hailcannon.com

Based on weather conditions that precipitate hailstorms, the anti-hail gun devices fire acetylene gas into the clouds. The energy results in a audible shockwave traveling into and through the cloud formations above, to disrupt the growth phase of the hailstones. The device is repeatedly fired every 4 seconds over the period when the storm is approaching & until it has passed through the area. What would otherwise have fallen as hail stones then falls as slush or rain. It is critical that the machine is running during the approach of the storm in order to affect the developing hail stone. These machines can not alter the form of an already developed & therefore solidified hailstone. Source: www.hailcannon.com

Though anti-hail guns have been used in many countries such as USA,  Israel, and Netherlands with a 50% success rate, their technical capability to diffuse hail has not been scientifically proven. So, while the intent of the government is good perhaps more thought and research should have gone into selecting the technology for the pilot project. Climate conditions, including decreased snowfall are adversely affecting crops.  On one hand we are destroying our forests and ecosystems, and then we are attempting to arrive at a weather solution using technology… Isn’t there a disconnect?

On a related note, The National Agricultural Insurance Scheme , has insured crops such as maize, paddy, potato, and barley on a pilot basis.  (A list of crops covered by the insurance scheme in various states can be viewed here.)   At the Himachal Pradesh state government’s insistence, apple and mango had been brought under the crop insurance scheme on a pilot basis in 2009-10.

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