D. J. Walter Scott
‘Ramnad Mundu’ bears the brunt of long dry spell
If Thanjavur is the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu, this drought- prone district could well be called the “spice bowl” for its topping the state in the production of chillies and ranked third in the production of coriander.
This year, the district may not live up to its expectations as the long dry spell during November and December following failure of northeast monsoon, had badly hit chilli cultivation and totally devastated the coriander crops. The ‘Ramnad Mundu,’ a unique chilli species grown in the district and exported to more than a dozen foreign countries in Europe, Gulf countries, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia, bore the brunt of the dry spell as the species are grown in rain-fed areas.
The Mundu variety was cultivated in about 14,000 hectares of rain-fed areas, while the samba variety (long, thin and slender chillies) was cultivated in about 3,000 hectares of irrigated areas and the prolonged dry spell cost both the varieties dearly, sources in the Horticulture Department said.
After the onset of northeast monsoon, the district received copious rainfall of 330.8 mm against the normal rainfall of 182.6 mm in October last.
However, the dry spell during November, when the farmers began the cultivation of chillies by direct sowing in rain-fed areas and planting of seedlings in irrigated areas badly hit the crops, the sources said.
As the dry spell continued in December, when the crops reached the vegetative stage, the formation of new branches was considerably less, resulting in reduced number of fruiting branches, the sources added.
“This has also resulted in less flower formation. Instead of bunches of flowers, there are solitary and auxiliary flowers. If we take into consideration the flower droppings, there will be a sharp fall in yield,” the sources said.
The intermittent rains during the first week of January did bring cheers to the farmers. “Now the plants look physically good but physiologically affected,” the sources pointed out.
During this season, the yield would hover around 2 to 2.5 quintals per acre, against the normal yield of 4 quintals, they said.
In the irrigated areas, the yield is expected to be around 7 quintals per acre against the normal yield of 10 quintals, the sources said adding that the deficit rainfall had also adversely affected the population of the crops in rain-fed areas.
The sources said that the yield loss would be more than 50 per cent in about 14,000 hectares, mostly in rain-fed areas and less than 50 per cent in about 2,000 hectares. More than 50,000 farmers are engaged in chilli cultivation.
Coriander was raised in about 1,600 hectares, but most of the crops were affected at the vegetative stage itself, thanks to the dry spell in the months of November and December, the sources said. The crops, slender in nature, were grown mainly in rain-fed areas with the help of northeast monsoon and the failure of the monsoon spelt doom to the crops, the sources said.