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Monday, Aug 12, 2002

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Drought hits TN banana crop

L.N. Revathy

The delay in the release of Cauvery water this year has posed a grave threat not only to the standing crop, but also to the short-term Kuruvai sowing.


BANANA growers in Tamil Nadu, especially in Tiruchi and Karur belt, are struggling to keep their crop alive following acute water shortage.

The growers, instead of letting water into the fields, have taken to spraying of water on the plant to keep it alive. The acute shortage, especially with the Cauvery bed turning bone dry and the southwest monsoon playing truant, has aggravated the situation.

According to the Director of the National Research Centre on Banana (NRCB), Dr S. Sathiamoorthy, the region recorded only 15 per cent rainfall this year, as against 30 per cent from the southwest monsoon and not a drop from the northeast monsoon.

``Both have failed, though there were one or two showers from the southwest monsoon. Cauvery bed wears the look of a desert,'' he said and drew a parallel to the drought situation during 1976-77.

``There was a delay in the release of Cauvery water then, but the ground water sources had not turned dry. Today, most of the open wells have gone dry and the water level in the borewells has sunk further. The situation is alarming," he said.

The delay in the release of Cauvery water this year has posed a grave threat not only to the standing crop, but the short-term Kuruvai sowing as well.

He said in the case of banana, the initiation of the bunch (future bunch size) would be determined around this time for the crop planted in February-March 2002.

"This is the prime period. If the dry spell continues for another 15 days, we will be heading for a total crop loss," he said.

Banana is raised in about 55,000 acres in the Tiruchi-Karur belt.

NRCB has estimated the crop loss at 30 per cent at present. A recent review of the crop condition revealed that the bacterial wilt infestation was on the rise because of dry soil and high temperatures.

"Normally, the day temperature falls during this period, but now, it is hovering between 36 and 38 degrees Celsius. We find that even the aged plants had fallen a victim to the bacterial wilt, which is known to attack plants in the initial stages only. This is peculiar. Controlling the spread of the wilt is becoming difficult in dry situation. The windy weather has hastened the spread," he added.

According to Dr. Sathiamoorthy, a major extent of the banana crop in that belt is under the robusta and nendran variety, which are highly susceptible to the bacterial wilt.

To a query on the banana market, he said there was a phenomenal increase in the price of a bunch in the weekly market on Monday, though the arrivals were good. The rates had swelled by 100 per cent, but the size of the bunch had fallen.

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