Bittersweet story, this!

FARMING

Bittersweet story, this!

slim pickings A mango tree on Ramappa’s farm in Kolar district. DH PHOTO / CHOWDA REDDYCome summer, and the story of the mango’s mixed fortunes unfolds, unfailingly. Pest attacks, unseasonal rain, high-velocity winds, changing agricultural landscape, all add up to make the story of the mango a bitter-sweet one. And yet, year after year, there’s hope as people look forward to another mango season.

This year, too, like last year, the yield has dipped. There is a sense of disappointment as the flowers have all fallen away, thanks to unseasonal rain. No one knows better than farmer Ramappa of Panasamakanahalli in Srinivasapura taluk of Kolar, about the mixed fortunes of the mango grower. This eighty-year-old, who was born in a house situated right in the middle of a mango farm, still looks after his trees with the same passion that he would, in his youth.

From decades, he has been growing mango on his ten-acre farm. There are several varieties including Badami, Beneesha, Raajagira, Tothapuri and Neelam. Every year, the number of mangoes that fall because of the wind is four times more than the number of mangoes that stay on the trees and eventually turn ripe. Ramappa still remembers the time when the trees were full of mangoes. Over the last few years, all he has gotten to see are raw, unripe mangoes strewn on the ground, thanks to wind and rain.

If it doesn’t rain, the flowers easily reach fruition. Unseasonal rain brings pest, which takes a toll on the flowers. Once the flowers fall off, it’s the end of the story for the mango.

This year, on Ramappa’s farm, all the flowers of the Beneesha and Badami variety have fallen. These varieties are the ones that fetch maximum profits. Even Tothapuri, Neelam and other varieties may just have a 40 per cent yield this time, says Ramappa. We ask Ramappa what he thinks could be the reason for this unfortunate story. That of dipping mango yield, not just in the State, but across the country. Ramappa points out that the chemicals that are sprayed in mango farms have increased over the years.

“When we were younger, I don’t remember any farmer spraying chemicals on his mango farm. Farmers always thought of the mango as a crop that could be cultivated easily, and something that they could rely on for their livelihood. Then, as if a curse fell on the mango, pests started attacking the crop in this region. Pests of different types, year after year,” reminisces Ramappa. Horticulture experts agree. They point to these attacks as the reason for a dip in mango production.

So, how does one solve the problem? Ramappa points out that one should intersperse mango trees with other varieties such as jamun, vegetables, ragi, tur and other mixed crops.  

Still a big draw...

But Ramappa observes that in spite of all the losses, there are still a lot of mango growers in the district. This is largely because the water-table in the region is depleting, and mango cultivation does not require too much water. Even those with one or two guntas of land take to mango cultivation.

Srinivasapura taluk alone has 25-30,000 hectares of land dedicated to mango cultivation. Srinivasapura is a taluk which has the single-largest stretch (spreading across several thousand acres) of mango trees cultivated in the whole of Asia. Lakhs of mango saplings are transported to other regions from the nurseries of Srinivasapura. The lure of the mango, it seems, won’t fade away any time soon.

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