Orchardists blame horticulture dept for ‘epidemic’ in south Kashmir districts

Orchardists blame horticulture dept for ‘epidemic’ in south Kashmir districts
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‘Faulty awareness leads to more destruction’

SHOPIAN: Orchardists in south Kashmir districts are furious on what they call “untoward attention” towards the biggest source of livelihood in the region, as approximately 80 percent population is directly dependent on horticulture sector in south Kashmir districts like Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag.
While blaming horticulture department for break out of an epidemic in the southern areas of Kashmir, orchardists said the department of horticulture was providing faulty awareness among the orchardists which according to them “leads to more destruction”.
Bashir Ahmad, a retired official from horticulture department told Kashmir Reader that the department “doesn’t reach the orchardists” at grassroots level and most of the times, “there remains a confusion” among orchardists.
“See, the department provides a booklet of spray schedule which they (the department) had designed for a particular weather but everyone knows the climatic conditions of Kashmir and at many instances, orchardists spray fungicides not suitable for that particular weather condition,” he said adding that majority of the orchardists were illiterate who could get better suggestions through booklet provided by the department.
President, Zamindar and Fruit Growers Association, Mushtaq Ahmad Malik accused horticulture department for “handing over market to rouges and looters” who accorto him sell spurious pesticides and fungicides to the orchardists.
“First they (horticulture department) is confusing orchardists with their faulty spray schedule booklet and they don’t visit the market to check which pesticides are being sold to poor orchardists,” he said adding that the department’s ignorance has led to heavy destruction to horticulture sector in south Kashmir, hence heavy losses to orchardists”.
Malik lamented that on the other hand government has denied orchardists from having crop insurance. “We brought the issue of crop insurance to the notice of higher authorities many times but they always remained mum towards our demands,” he said adding that denying crop insurance to orchardists has yet again exposed the government attitude towards to orchardists.
Muneer Hussain Bhat, an orchardist from Bolusu area of Kulgam told Kashmir Reader that the current ongoing epidemic of Alternaria Leaf Blotch has damaged 50 percent of tree leaves in their area. According to him horticulture department alone was responsible for the breakout of this severe disease by not providing proper awareness among the orchardists.
“Whenever there is any epidemic or a natural calamity in any part of Kashmir, government gears up to assess the losses and provides victims assistance but here the case is different, orchardists are being ignored as we were ignored after 2014 floods despite suffering heavy losses, “he said.
The authorities of horticulture department refute these allegations saying that they issue advisory to orchardists from time to time.
“Our extensions workers and KVKs (Krishi Vigyan Kendras) organised awareness camps in different villages of Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam, I supervised three such camps,” Director Horticulture Kashmir, Manzoor Ahmad Qadri said adding that they also put the advisory on radio and television also. He, however, believes that at the beginning of new season there should be awareness camps where farmers directly interact with officials of horticulture department for better communication.
The authorities further said that the epidemic has been brought under control.
When asked about crop insurance, he said “crop insurance cannot be not implemented in Kashmir due to weather reasons”.
A senior scientist from the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) told Kashmir Reader that these days the main problem in orchards was Necrotic Leaf Blotch (NLB), also known as bukharat, and Alternaria Leaf Blotch (ALB).
“Necrotic Leaf Blotch is an abiotic disorder which is caused by high temperatures and high humidity, particularly when there are heavy rains after mid-June,” he said.
He added that Alternaria Leaf Blotch is a disease caused by Alternaria mali. The ‘burning of orchards’ is mainly caused by Necrotic Leaf Blotch. “Both ALB and NLB attain severity during hot summer months after mid-June. Orchards which are weak, especially when there is deficiency of zinc, calcium, boron and magnesium, are more prone to NLB and ALB. Actually, the dry conditions had made many elements, especially those with less mobility, unavailable for plants, which is why the plants became more prone to these problems,” the scientist added.
He suggests that under these conditions the growers need to spray zinc-based fungicides and micro-nutrient sprays to manage these problems. “Besides that, orchardists can contact the horticulture department for suggestions for the better care and cure of any kind of diseases and for better quality yield,” he said.