GUWAHATI, June 20 � The general belief that the signals released by the mobile phone towers are responsible for the nut dropping and reduced production of areca nut, which has been disturbing the farmers of the State these days, is not based on scientific facts. This is the assertion made by Dr Govinda Acharya, Scientist-in-Charge of the city-based Central Plantation Crop Research Institute (CPCRI) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). He was talking to this correspondent.
Assam is one of the major areca nut producing states in India. India again, in its turn, is one of the major areca nut producing countries in the world, with around 3, 97,000 hectares of land under areca nut cultivation and producing around 5,00,000 metric tonnes of the nut annually.
Assam has 71, 000 hectares of its land under areca nut cultivation and its annual areca nut production is around 65,000 metric tonnes, which is around 16 per cent of the total Indian areca nut production. However, Karnataka occupies the top position in this respect. This south Indian state produces around 45 per cent of the country�s total areca nut.
Dr Acharya maintains that except the rumours, there is no evidence so far in support of the above belief on reduced areca nut production in Assam. Areca nut is a perennial crop. Its nature is that if in one year its farmers get better crops, there is a reduced production the next year, he maintains.
Moreover, he has said, our farmers are also not using fertilizers in the cases of coconut and areca nut. Chemical fertilizers are not used by most of our farmers connected with the bari (orchard) system of plantation. In Assam, there is no commercially developed large-scale coconut and areca nut plantation.
The other two factors that are affecting the areca nut plants in the State are immature nut falling and nut cracking (splitting) due to the deficiency of micronutrient borax. Borax deficiency is observed all over Assam. In this respect, application of borax in each of the areca nut plants at the rate of 25 grams twice a year is helpful.
The first application is to be made in April-May, followed by the second one in September-October, along with the recommended doses of other chemical fertilizers.
It is noteworthy that areca nut splitting is caused also by sudden rainfall activities after high temperature during the March-April period. For the past several years, incidents of immature nut falling and nut cracking have been observed in Assam.
Most of the areca nut produced in Assam is meant for domestic consumption. A portion of Assam areca nut is exported in the form of supari (dried areca nut) to other states and there is high potential to increase the production and export quantity of areca nut and thus to help the socio-economic condition of the farmers.
There is high potential of manufacturing different sizes and shapes of plates and dishes from the areca nut leaf sheath locally known as dhakuwa. Moreover, tannin from areca nut is used in wine industries as well as in the dye industries.
Dr Acharya has said that the doors of the CPCRI are open for all farmers for any type of technical problems they are facing in areca nut and coconut plantations.