Muskmelons could leave a bad taste in your mouth this summer season since more than 40% of the crop in the region has been damaged by a viral disease and collar rod. Growers in Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts are staring at huge losses due to crop damage.
The crop needs dry weather, but a delayed peak summer season this year and strong winds aided the spread of diseases.
“A special team from the horticulture department and Punjab Agriculture University visited the muskmelon belt. Damage to 40% of the crop is likely. This is likely to create a demand-supply mismatch,” said Dr Satbir Singh, deputy director, horticulture department.
Around 3,500 hectares are under the crop in Kapurthala and around 1,000 hectares in Jalandhar.
Farmers claim to have spent between Rs 6,000 and Rs 7,000 on seeds per hectare, Satbir said.
Last year, muskmelon was selling at about Rs 10-15 per kg in the retail market. However, prices have almost doubled this season.
This year, the muskmelons are being sold at Rs 15-18 a kg in the wholesale market, district horticulture officer of Shahkot block, Dr Bhajan Singh Saini said.
“We have visited many villages, including the Nananpindi and Basti Peerdad, where the disease has spread the most. In some places, the crop has rusted in the field itself.”
“I had cultivated muskmelons on 5 acres. A viral disease, led to early fruiting and disfigurement of the melons,” said Kashmir Singh of Nanakpindi village.
Agriculture development officer Shahkot Sukhjit Singh said that in his block, around 200 hectares were under muskmelons. He added that the entire crop had been destroyed.
“Farmers are staring at huge losses as muskmelon seeds cost around Rs 11,000 and above a kg,” he added.
“The disease was first seen in Jalandhar, Kapurthala and is now spreading out. We have asked the farmers to root out the plants, which are diseased. Spraying of Melathine and other insecticides should be carried. We are creating awareness,” he said.
However, farmers lament that despite the spraying of insecticides and rooting out the diseased plants as advised by the horticulture department, the diseases continue to spread.