Arecanut trees withering, growers a worried lot

Arecanut trees that are withering in Puttur.

The sweltering heat coupled with dry-spell has adversely affected arecanut plantations in Puttur, Sullia, Bantwal and Belthangady taluks in Dakshina Kannada district.

The areca inflorescence have started to wither and an are also drooping. The growers are fearing a fall in areca production.

According to the statistics of the Department of Horticulture, arecanut is cultivated in 39,396 hectares in the district. The average annual production is 3,604 metric tonnes.

Normally, arecanut trees can withstand minimum temperature between 14 to 18 degree celsius and maximum temperature between 30 to 35 degree celsius.

The dry spell and shortage of water owing to poor pre-monsoon rain will result in a decline in the arecanut yield, said farmers. The flowers in the arecanut trees are not blooming in the right manner and the flowers that had blossomed have dried up and have turned black in colour.

Arecanut trees start bearing inflorescence (for the arecanut to sprout) in the month of April. The swealtering heat has resulted in withering of the inflorescence. This in turn will also affect the growth of the trees, said growers.

“Only showers can bring hope for us. An arecanut tree requires 18 to 20 litres of water per day. The farmers supply water to arecanut plantations from the water available in lakes, wells and borewells during peak summer. As the sources of water are getting dried, farmers are finding it difficult to irrigate the plantations,” said a farmer.

“After having taken care of the arecanut trees like our children, it hurts us when we see the withering flowers. Arecanut is the only source of our livelihood. If the production declines, what will we do for living?” asks Mohan, a farmer in Sullia.

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha Hasiru Sene Organising Secretary Manohar Shetty N said, “The change in climate has affected arecanut plantations as well as other crops. It is difficult for the farmers to survive.”

He said, “As we failed to get pre-monsoon showers, the arecanut trees have been affected and have started to wither. It looks like a new disease is affecting the trees.”

“Those who have water facilities, are irrigating the arecanut plantations daily for the survival of the trees. Once the rainy season starts, the arecanut plantations suffer from fruit rot disease. On a whole, the production will be hit hard this year,” he added.

A farmer in Bolugallu in Sullia said, “Even after drilling a borewell for 700-ft deep, I failed to get water. Without water, the plantations have dried.”

Arecanut is a main commercial crop in Dakshina Kannada district. Last year, a majority of arecanut plantations were hit by fruit rot disease (Kole Roga) following continuous rainfall. This year, intense heat is affecting the production. Along with arecanut, even other crops like pepper and cocoa are also drying up, he said.

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