ITANAGAR, Nov 24 � A widespread decline in the production of citrus fruits in several Arunachal Pradesh districts has caused alarm among orange farmers in the State as well as in the Horticulture department.
Lohit and Lower Dibang Valley, the two major orange producing districts, are particularly affected by the phenomenon as many farmers had to abandon hundreds of hectares of orange orchards.
According to a survey conducted by the Arunachal Pradesh Horticulture Research and Development Mission (APHRDM) from October 26 to October 31, Wakro in Lohit district, known as the orange bowl of the State, and Roing and Korunu Circles in Lower Dibang Valley district are worst affected.
APHRDM mission director Egam Basar, who studied the problem, said that there was an urgent need to arrest the problem, caused by a host of diseases, before it spreads to other districts. �This can prove to be disastrous for the citrus industry in the State,� Basar predicted.
A farmer at Chidu village in the Wakro Circle has lost 10,500 orange trees. Similar stories of losses were reported in the Koronu Circle in Lower Dibang Valley district, where about 20,000 citrus trees were found bereft of fruits.
�The problem is reported from East Siang and Papum Pare districts too,� Basar said.
Though decline in citrus fruit is caused by several factors, the survey team zeroed in on three causes � nutrient deficiency (especially zinc deficiency), greening disease and viral infection (Tristeza and Yellow Corky Vein virus), as responsible for the crisis.
Greening disease is caused by gram negative bacteria which gets into orchards through infected planting materials and later transmitted to other plants through a fly called Citrus Psylla and aphids.
Measures to control the diseases include both controlling the bacteria as well as insect carrier, Basar says.
Nutrients deficiency is specially caused by poor management of orchards due to negligence of farmers and hence �Citrus decline� is also called �Neglectosis�, he pointed out.
The samples collected from the surveyed orchards were being analysed at Central Horticulture and Forestry College, Pasighat and Indian Agriculture Research Institute in New Delhi.
�After the analytical result is out, massive exercise to tackle the situation is required. For now, it is very important to take preventive measures,� Basar stated.
If zinc deficiency is established, zinc sulphate should be applied and for Greening disease, Tetracycline injection may be applied, he suggested.
Lamenting on the lack of research facilities in the State to support farmers, Basar said, �We are working towards enabling the government to coordinate and prioritise research activities to combat the disease. If we have research facilities with easy access, then it can be of great boon to farmers.�
�During the field visit, the citrus growers demanded that an �emergency response team� must be established in every district to battle �greening� disease.
Orange cultivation in Lohit district started in 2000 after it was introduced by the State�s Horticulture department. A large number of farmers, businessmen and unemployed youths in the district took to orange cultivation.
In the mid-to-late 2000, the district achieved the distinction of being the highest grower of citrus fruits with production rising to almost 6,000 tonnes.
During the visit, the survey team was also reported of early ripening of citrus fruits.
�The harvesting of orange starts in the second week of November. But this year, the fruits have ripened earlier and is being harvested in the month of October itself,� a local farmer said. � PTI