The tobacco sector in Prakasam district is facing a new crisis as the growers are spending sleepless nights owing to rapid spreads of a parasitic weed Orabanche cernua in their fields.
Tobacco crop in over 5,000 hectares in the district has been affected by the parasite and the problem is more severe in Podili and Tangutur regions, according to Indian Tobacco Association (ITA) sources.
The ryots in the traditional tobacco growing areas of Southern Black Soil(SBS) and Southern Light Soil (SLS) have grown the crop in 48,000 hectares as against the 85,000 hectares last year. The only solace for the growers is a better crop yield with bright grade tobacco this year when compared to last year, ITA sources say.
In the present situation, the production may be between 70 to 75 million kg in the traditional tobacco growing areas of SLS and SBS as against 125 million kg produced last year in the areas coming under the SBS and SLS auction platforms.
“Orabanche cernua is a debilitating holophrastic weed which affect the production by 30 to 70 per cent. The infestation is rampant in patches and its impact on the crop may be severe this year,” says Tobacco Board SBS Regional Manager G. Bhaskar Reddy. B.S.R.Reddy, senior scientist at the ITC, suggests that the farmers went for light irrigation to overcome the problem. However, excessive irrigation would affect the quality of crop, he warns.
Inter-cropping of fenugreek and trap crops like sorghum, green gram and gingely will ward off the parasite. Jowar and gingely can be grown as a kharif crop to control the parasite, he suggests, adding that under no circumstances brinjal and chillies should be grown the nearby fields. Meanwhile, Central Tobacco Research Institute Director Anuradha suggests that farmers must go for crop rotations, summer ploughing and grow sun hemp as green manure crop to cope up with the parasitic infestation.
Dr. Trimurthulu of LAM farm, Guntur, advocates integrating cultural and chemical methods of control and use of bio-control agents will ensure sustainability in production.
Orabanche affects the production by 30 to 70 per cent. The infestation is rampant, and its impact on the crop may be severe this year
- G. Bhaskar Reddy,Tobacco Board SBS Regional Manager