Govt to investigate fungal infection, pest attacks on Darjeeling oranges

fungal infection, pest attacks on Darjeeling oranges
The state government has decided to investigate the recent spate of fungal infection and pest attacks on Darjeeling oranges that dropped the yield of the fruit by more than 50 per cent compared to last year.
State agricultural minister Purnendu Bose who is currently in Darjeeling said: "This is my first official visit to the hills after becoming minister. A team of scientists from Uttar Banga Krishi Visvavidyalaya will probe into the matter (the infection and pest attacks) and based on the report, we will take appropriate steps."
While 2.5 lakh quintals of oranges were produced in the hills last year, this time the yield is expected to be around 90,000 quintals.
Sources said 50 to 60 per cent of oranges in the hills were destroyed after a fungal infection and pest attacks.
The harvest season starts from November end and goes on till mid-January.
M.W. Moktan, a senior scientist and the in-charge of Darjeeling Krishi Vigyan Kendra, a unit of Uttar Banga Krishi Visvavidyalaya, Cooch Behar, spoke about three reasons for the spread of infection and pest attacks in the hill orchards.
"The main reason is that the farmers still practise the traditional method of farming and they are reluctant to adopt new technology. The other reason is that they do not follow proper nutritional management system, which is critical for the health of plants. Climate change, too, has affected the crops," he said.
Moktan, however, said that all was not lost and oranges could be saved if farmers took up modern methods. "Few farmers who have incorporated modern farming methods have not been affected. Disease and pest management must be done properly," he said.
Ram Prasad Sanyal, the assistant director of agriculture department, GTA, had earlier said that a spell of dry weather during the flowering season around March and April was one of the reasons for the drop in orange production.
Today, Bose said: "The agriculture department is acting as a nodal agency in bringing together departments like horticulture and fisheries. In the hills, there are seven seed farms but most are defunct. We plan to revive them. There was an agriculture fair in Kalimpong yesterday and I visited the stalls. While some farmers are trained, many are not. A building of the agriculture department in Kalimpong is lying without use. We will renovate it and start an agricultural training centre there."(TT)

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