By Our Staff Correspondent
SIDDAPUR (KODAGU DISTRICT), DEC. 2. Experts at a seminar on "Rejuvenation of Coorg Mandarin" held here on Thursday, suggested to the mandarin (orange) growers in Kodagu district to adopt a new package to revive the near-extinct Coorg orange crop in the district.
H. Ravishankar, Head, Central Horticultural Experiment Station (CHES), Chettalli, said inadequate maintenance of orchards, lack of nutrition to plants and poor post-harvest techniques had resulted in the extinction of orange crop in Kodagu. The Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR), CHES, and Coorg Foundation, Polibetta, jointly organised the programme.
Poor practices caused the crop to get infections such as phytophthora and greening disease. These plants should be ultimately removed and destroyed to prevent spread of diseases, particularly greening disease, Dr. Ravishankar said. The CHES had developed an improved variety of disease-free planting material. Growers could take the benefit of it. The CHES had selected five orchards each in three taluks in Kodagu for experimentation and results were encouraging, he said. Growers, scientists visited the orchard of B.S. Madaiah at Ingilgere, near here, in the morning to have a view of the orchard owned and maintained by Mr. Madaiah. The orchard measuring over six acres contained over 700 six-year-old orange plants.
Mr. Madaiah said he was able to reap bumper crop recently, thanks to the disease-free planting material and a package of good practices, including drip-irrigation system.
Later, speaking at the seminar, Mr. Madaiah said it would require huge efforts to nurture plants and maintain them for good crops.
K.N. Changappa, Director of Coorg Foundation, called upon the growers to take advantage of the disease-free planting materials from the CHES. He lauded the efforts of Mr. Madaiah, who had raised orange plantations exclusively, saying it had raised hopes among growers to revive the crop. The Coorg Foundation had plans to produce disease-free planting materials in association with the CHES.
B.M.C. Reddy, Project Coordinator (Tropical Fruits) of the IIHR, Bangalore, said orange and other citrus growing in Kodagu was unique as they were grown as inter-crops with coffee, pepper and so on. It was easy to manage diseases in orange where it was grown as mono-crop (also pure crop) like in Nagpur. He shot down the idea of some growers that a new variety of crop should be introduced in Kodagu, saying Coorg mandarin had a special blend of taste. Citrus plants were "aristocratic".
They should be taken good care of always. Ban on recruitment of scientists had hindered the research work on tackling diseases in oranges.
There were plans to modernise "polyhouse" at the CHES to produce more disease-free plants. The National Horticulture Board provided subsidy to growers taking up production of healthy plants. Bose Mandanna, former vice-chairman of the Coffee Board, discounted a proposition to grow orange as a mono-crop in Kodagu, saying farmers would have been in deep trouble if they had grown only oranges. Orange growing was more of an emotional issue than an economic activity. Dependence on only one crop could spell disaster.
K. Suresh, Deputy Director of the Department of Horticulture, Kodagu, said the State Government had provided Rs. 50 lakhs to the CHES for conducting research on orange on a three-year period last year.