Continued dry spell in Karnataka has coffee growers worried

Coffee plantations should have received 5 to 6 inches of rain in June, but the State’s coffee-growing areas have received hardly any so far this month

June 17, 2022 02:55 pm | Updated June 18, 2022 11:12 am IST - Bengaluru

Coffee plantations in the Western Ghats

Coffee plantations in the Western Ghats | Photo Credit: BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS

The dry spell in coffee growing areas of Karnataka during the early part of monsoon has planters very worried about the future of their crop.

Going by the IMD’s forecast of an early onset of monsoon, coffee growers in the State got all set for the downpour by June 1. However, the State’s coffee heartlands, comprising Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru and Hassan, are yet to see signs of active monsoon.

Exposure to heat

Anticipating an active spell, most coffee farmers have already carried out shade regulation through dadap lopping (chopping off the branches of secondary shade trees on their plantations), to ensure maximum sunlight on the plants during the monsoon. However, in the last fortnight, coffee plants that are currently bearing tender berries are overly exposed to heat and summerlike sunlight, say planters.

Dadap lopping is undertaken just before or at the onset of monsoon as retaining thick shade during monsoon could lead to disruption of free flow of oxygen in the garden and this may lead to berry dropping, wet foot condition and stalk rotting in coffee plants. Dadaps (fast growing trees of the genus Erythrina) are also planted for the nitrogen-fixing bacteria on their roots.

Bose Mandanna, of Subramhanya Estate at Sunticoppa, Kodagu said, “The entire coffee belt was set for an active monsoon from June 1. But instead of a good start of a monsoon, we have a dry spell which brought additional concerns to the coffee-growing community.” According to him, coffee plantations should have received 5 to 6 inches of rain in June, but the coffee-growing areas have received hardly any rain so far this month.

“More than half of June has passed and the monsoon is yet to get active. Rains are very critical for the berry development and also to keep white stem borers at bay from coffee plants,’‘ said Mr. Mandanna, who is also a member of the Coffee Board.

Pepper also hit

Echoing similar sentiments, Shirish Vijayendra, former chairman, Karnataka Planters’ Association, and a planter from Mudigere, said a weak monsoon would adversely affect the coffee crop this year and has also impacted pepper flowering and corn formation and also paddy cultivation in most parts of the state. “Most days are very sunny as if we are still in summer. It is not a good sign for most crops, including coffee,’’ Mr. Vijayendra added.

Anil Kumar Bhandari, President of India Coffee Trust (ICT) and a large planter from Sunticoppa, said, a weak monsoon no doubt has added worries to the cuppa. “If the dry spell continues for another 4 to 6 days, there will be a significant impact on production due to poor crop formation,’’ Mr. Bhandari cautioned.

Coffee growers also say they purchased manure in bulk to fertilize and nourish their plantations, a work that can be done only if the soil has enough moisture to dissolve and absorb the chemicals. “We are yet to apply fertilizers on our plantations as there is no moisture on the ground,’’ lamented a small farmer, Sindhu Jagdish, from Ponnampet, Kodagu.

Board worried too

Confirming the scenario, K.G. Jagadeesha, CEO and Secretary, Coffee Board, told The Hindu that the State’s coffee growing areas have been experiencing dry spell in the last over a fortnight. “Dry spell is a serious concern for the entire coffee community and for the board as well,’‘ he added.

Meanwhile, Geetha Agnihotri, director, IMD, said active spell of rain in coffee districts of the State is expected in the next four to five days.

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