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India - Tomato crops of Odisha ‘wilting’ under viral disease

Wilt disease in standing tomato crops has severely hit farmers of Nuagaon block in  Sundargarh district. While the total area under horticulture crops in the block is 2,000 to 2,200 hectares, 70 per cent of the land is under tomato cultivation.Wilt disease in the tomato crops was first reported from Sorda gram panchayat (GP) a fortnight back and now the disease is spreading to newer areas. Nuagaon Assistant Horticulture Officer (AHO), Soumya Pathak, and Assistant Agriculture Officer (AAO), P Mandal, visited some of the affected areas and confirmed the spread of the disease.

Pathak said from symptoms in the affected plants, it appeared to be viral wilt disease and 25 to 30 per cent of the late kharif crop was affected. He said during inquiry, farmers admitted to repeating tomato cultivation on the same piece of land which increases  chances of virus contamination and fungus attacks. He said tomato crops requires less labour with high returns, luring farmers to opt for it.

An affected farmer, Nath Samad of Golatoli hamlet under Sorda, said he had invested about `1.25 lakh on growing tomatoes over three acres of land but a majority of the standing crops has been damaged by the wilt disease. Farmers such as  Ganju Oram of Banki village in Chitapedi GP, Anil Ekka of Barilepta GP and Soma Lakra of Sorda GP have similar stories to tell.

Pathak said they have asked the affected tomato farmers to immediately remove the plants which are affected by the disease to save healthy plants and avoid repeating planting the crop on the same piece of land. He said from an acre, farmers get 50 to 60 quintals of indigenous tomato varieties, while the yield is 250 to 300 quintals per acre for hybrid tomato crops.

Panposh Assistant Horticulture Director (ADH) S P Nayak said spraying of pesticide was taken up by some farmers, but it did not work. “It is impossible to contain the spread of the disease with any form of treatment, including pesticide application and the only viable option is to remove affected plants,” he said, adding that a study would be conducted soon to assess the total crop damage.

Nuagaon caters to bulk tomato requirement of Rourkela city and at present, the vegetable is priced at about Rs 50 per kg. Last year too, the tomato farmers of Nuagaon had faced loss in the shape of distress sale due to bumper crop.

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