Farmers fear onset of frost will affect horticultural crops

Normal life in and around Kodaikanal has been affected by bone-biting cold and heavy mist.

With an abrupt fall in temperature and intolerable cold, locals are confining themselves to their homes.

Thick mist blurs the vision of road users, said A. Bastin, a Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation employee. But wild animals from reserve forests were found roaming near the lake in the heart of the town.

Farmers fear the onset of frost in January-February, as it would adversely affect the horticultural crops. This is the time when fruit-bearing trees like pear, orange and avocado shed their leaves for survival.

Though beans and carrot can withstand the present climate, they would be affected in January, say horticulturists.

Residents say temperature has been erratic. Kodaikanal’s temperature was 9.7 degree Celsius last week. It sometimes fell to seven late in the night or early morning. In December 2010, the temperature fell to 6.6 degree C at night and 19.4 degree C in the day. It was 5.4 degree C and 20.3 degree C during the same period in 2011, and 7.4 degree C and 20.8 degree C in 2012.

Relative humidity was 97 per cent in 2010, 98 in 2011, 96 in 2012 and now it is 63 per cent. But it was 97 per cent last week, according to sources at Kodaikanal weather station.

“We are preparing for the worst in January. Most of the potato, beans and carrot crops are still in the field. But we fear that the cold weather may affect these plants,” worries A. Michael, a farmer in Vilpatti.

To protect the standing crops from frost, Department of Horticulture has been promoting sprinklers. Spraying water on leaves during early hours would arrest frost damage.

“We advise farmers to cover planting areas with shade nets. Last week, we covered the flowering bed at Bryant Park at around 5 p.m. Now, we cover it at 3 p.m.,” says Deputy Director of Horticulture S. Raja Mohammad.

However, the prevailing climate brings cheers to tourist operators as it is ideal for foreign tourists to visit the place.

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