Banteidor Lyngdoh

SHILLONG:

Agriculture minister Banteidor Lyngdoh on September 13 stated that Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Umiam is doing analysis on samples of bud rot disease which affects areca nut plantations. He also said that a definitive solution to the issue is expected.

He was responding to a call attention notice put forth by Mawsynram MLA, Himalaya Shangpliang, who voiced concern over the government’s lack of action to solve the issues areca nut farmers were having as a result of the bud rot disease.

Lyngdoh informed that on August 22, a letter of confirmation was received from ICAR for NEH Region, Umiam on deputing a team of 6 scientists headed by Dr S Hazarika, Principal Scientist, Soil Science for joint diagnostic visit to the affected areas of Umsawrang and Dangar under Mawsynram C&RD Block alongside the Directorate of Horticulture.

He said on August 29, a team of experts along with the officials of the department made a joint diagnostic visit to the affected villages of Umsawrang and Dangar under Mawsynram C&RD Block with officials of the Directorate of Horticulture.

Earlier, on August 7 – 10, a team of officers from Directorate of Horticulture visited Directorate of areca nut and Spices Development (DASD), Calicut and IISR, Kasaragod Kerala and discussed the issue of bud rot.

He said that the government is concerned about the welfare of the farmers in general and the areca nut farmers in particular.

“We have taken several steps to compensate the loss to the farmers through alternative planting material and innovative solutions to mitigate the effect of the bud rot disease,” the minister said.

He informed that the department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare under the fruit development scheme has sanctioned 6 crore 27 lakh for distribution of free planting material as an immediate relief for areas affected under areca nut plantation for the current year 2022-23.

The scheme is already being implemented and it is expected to distribute 302,400 numbers of banana suckers covering an area of 189 hectares, 739,500 pineapple suckers covering 170 hectares.

Besides these, the department has also kept provision for protection measures such as sprayer, bio fungicides, biopesticides and so on which will be taken up post the monsoon.

He said crops such as banana and pineapple are being distributed to farmers depending on the location and suitability of the climatic conditions. These crops were specifically selected keeping in view the short gestation period as compared to areca nut and the need for farmers to find an immediate alternative to livelihood.

Lyngdoh said that the department is cognizant of the problem caused to the farmers by the bud rot disease which has affected the livelihood of many areca nut farmers in the state.

He added that going forward the department will give its full support to the farmers by using modern technologies like drones and providing planting materials and technical inputs.

With these the department has started the first ever pilot initiative of spraying Bordeaux mixture on areca nut plantation in Meghalaya to understand the feasibility and efficacy of it.

The pilot initiative was conducted in Umsawrang village, Mawsynram block, under East Khasi Hills district and Rongsingre in Chokpot block under South Garo Hills district.

The initiative was supported by MBMA along with the officers from the horticulture directorate. Several farmers in the pilot regions have expressed their satisfaction over the spraying of Bordeaux mixture and have requested similar assistance.

However, as the monsoon started, it was not possible to take up further spraying on a large scale.

While in the pilot phase the drones were hired from Andhra Pradesh with assistance from inhouse pilots under MBMA, the government is now in the process of procuring better, high capacity drones which can spray more areas in lesser time as compared to the drones used in the pilot phase, he stated.