An unexpected outbreak of buckeye rot and leaf blight diseases that has hit tomato and capsicum crops following heavy rainfall and warm temperatures is giving sleepless nights to farmers.
Tomatoes, known as “red gold” among the farming community, are one of the major offseason cash crops grown over 25,000 hectares of land in lower and mid-altitude areas, including Solan, Sirmaur, Bilaspur, Una, Kangra, Hamirpur and Mandi districts, with an annual production pegged at one million tonnes.
So far the prevalence of these diseases has caused damage to over 30 to 40% of tomato and capsicum crops in various areas of these districts.
This has led to a sudden rise in demand for capsicum with retail prices in vegetable markets reaching Rs 30 per kilo. Wholesale prices of tomatoes are currently hovering between Rs 10 and Rs 15 per kilo in northern areas of the country.
Vijay Singh Thakur, vicechancellor of University of Horticulture and Forestry at Nauni, said, “After receiving several complaints from farmers the varsity’s scientists visited some of the worst-affected areas and advised farmers to follow the recommended spray schedule and prescribed measures to prevent these diseases from spreading further.”
He added that rainfall, especially in June, led to increase in humidity and waterlogging in fields, helping fungal diseases to spread. “Losses are expected to rise further if it continues to rain. Rain normally affects growth of plants and leads to leaf defoliation and related diseases in crops. Farmers should contact the varsity’s extension directorate to seek guidance and technical knowhow,” he said.
“Officials of the agriculture department and farm varsities should immediately visit the affected areas and educate farmers on checking the spread of crop diseases to prevent heavy losses,” said Mohan Singh Thakur, former chairman of the Solan market committee.
Buckeye rot mainly occurs when temperature falls at night after it has rained during the day.