Tomato growers in Maharashtra have complained of an unidentified disease that is causing early ripening and yield loss of their crops. Entomologist Ankush Chormale, along with growers, has asked for quick action by state agricultural universities and the Agriculture department to contain the spread of the disease, which, otherwise would completely wipe out the summer tomato crop.
Grown mainly in irrigated areas of Satara, Pune, Ahmednagar and Nashik, the rabi or summer tomato is a prized crop that helps farmers in these regions earn well. Summer tomatoes are exported to Bangladesh and Dubai. Farmers normally start preparation of the crop in February with the first picking commencing late April. The crop normally feeds the market till July, after which the second or kharif crop takes over.
Ajit Korade, a farmer from Phaltan tehshil in Satara district, had noticed the problem when he started the first picking on April 20. For every green half ripe tomato that was harvested, around 10 had turned yellow. “The early ripened fruits have no market and we were forced to junk them,” he said. Summer tomato is not a new crop for Korade, but this is the first time he is facing this problem. An agriculture graduate, Korade had tried to control the disease by spraying the known fungicides but to no avail. Korade admits if the disease stalks large, he will be forced to abandon his crop.
Chormale, who is an administrator of a popular agriculture-related Facebook page called Hoy Amhi Shetkari (HAS), said they have been receiving reports from various parts of the state in this regard. “There seems to be nothing wrong with the crop on inspection, but the problem starts when the fruit formation starts. Farmers lose their crop even before realising what went wrong,” he said.
The extension unit of the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri in Ahmednagar, had conducted some field visits in Sangamner taluka of the district but the real cause of the disease is yet to be ascertained. With the ongoing lockdown and disruption of transports, farmer are finding it difficult to send samples to other testing centres. Chormale has called for quick identification of the causative organism and suggestion of measures to control the disease. “With farmers losing out due to the lockdown, swift action needs to be taken to stop further losses,” he said.
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