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Pomegranate farmers smile again

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DOLLAR-EARNING FRUIT: A file picture of the pomegranate at a wholesale outlet.
DOLLAR-EARNING FRUIT: A file picture of the pomegranate at a wholesale outlet.

Staff Reporter

Production, which was affected by blight, is looking up this year

BANGALORE: The pomegranate production in Karnataka that had plummeted in the last couple of years because of bacterial blight disease has seen an improvement in production this year. The bacterial blight affected crops in Karnataka and Maharashtra, the two biggest pomegranate-growing States in the country, causing enormous hardship to farmers, some of whom had even replaced the crop.

The crop yield that had declined by over 50 per cent is now showing improvement after several measures were initiated by the Horticulture Department and pomegranate exports to the European Union is being promoted at present, Horticulture Director K. Ramakrishnappa told The Hindu.

He said: “The department has been implementing good management practice (GMP) package to provide assistance to farmers, which helped reduce bacterial blight attack.”

Karnataka, which produced around 1.2 lakh tonnes of pomegranate a year estimated at Rs. 200 crore, had seen its production come down to 50,000 tonnes.

However, after the remedial measures were taken, the production had galloped to over 70,000 tonnes this year.

Fall in production

An hectare under pomegranate cultivation that would yield the farmer around 12 tonnes had come down to six tonnes after the crop was afflicted by bacterial blight.

The pomegranates from Karnataka enjoy good market in European Union and the Gulf countries. Over 40 per cent of the crop was exported to these countries. The reduction in the yield of this “dollar- earning” crop had affected over 15,000 families involved in its cultivations in areas such as Belgaum, Tumkur, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Koppal, Chitradurga, Davangere, Gadag, Bidar and Bellary districts. Approximately, the crop is cultivated in about 10,000 hectares of land in the State. The GMP package was implemented in 10 districts following recommendations of the National Resource Centre for Pomegranate, and the production had improved drastically.

“In fact, when the cultivation of pomegranate became unsustainable, farmers even removed the plants in over 2,000 hectares of land spread across Chitradurga, Tumkur and Bagalkot,” Dr. Ramakrishnappa said.

Over a period of time, he said, farmers were advised to improve soil fertility by adding organic matter, neem cakes and micro-nutrients. “Soil mulching with organic matter was done and good pruning techniques were taught to them. Besides, irrigation facility was improved,” he added.

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