By Bilal Hassan
PLANT protection is essential to enhance agriculture output and to improve quality of crop produce. The government has placed plant protection, integrated pest management and disease control on high priority. Besides,encouraging domestic scientists, assistance is also being sought from foreign scientists in this regard. Launching of agriculture linkage programme with the help of Australia is an example in this direction.
The programme is being initiated to control pests and diseases that inflict serious quantitative and qualitative damages to mango crop, evolve improved detection and management strategies for sudden death syndrome disease in this fruit and other critical pests detrimental to this crop. The government wants to help the growers to produce international-quality mangoes to increase its export and earn foreign exchange.
Pakistan earns about $24 million annually from mango export. Around 60-70 per cent good quality fruit is exported to the Middle Eastern countries, followed by 15-16 per cent to European countries. The total export varies from year to year. There is a big potential for export of Pakistani mango in world market. Need is to enhance production and quality of the fruit.. This could be possible only by adopting modern orchard management techniques.
Mango is the second major fruit crop, grown on an area of over 93,000 hectares with a production of 915,000 tones. The area under mango crop has increased but the rise in production is comparatively low mainly due to diseases.
In Punjab, the main mango-growing districts are Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Muzaffargarh, Bahawalpur, D.G Khan, Sujaabad, Kabirwala, and Khanewal. Besides these Sahiwal, Vehari, Okara, Faisalabad, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh and Sargodha are other important mango-growing areas in this province. In Sindh it is mainly grown in Mirpurkhas, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Naushahro Feroz, Thatta and Khairpur. In NWFP it is largely grown in Peshawar and Mardan.
Since diseases are the main enemies of mango plant, its orchards suffer from a number of diseases. For example, three diseases namely powdery mildew, blossom blight and anthracnose attacked mango orchards at an early stage of flowering.
Disease damage varies from mild to severe depending upon weather conditions and management level. Orchard growers resort to as many as six to seven sprays that add to high cost of producing mango. Yet they remain unable to limit damage.
The powdery mildew appears from January to March. High humidity supported by rains and high temperature cause widespread problem of this disease. The disease is characterised by superficial whitish grey mycelia growth, initially appearing on flowers and buds. Later the fungus spreads to fruit, leaves, shoots and trunk. The whole surface of the affected flowers and young fruit gets covered with a powdery substance consisting of millions of spores.
It necessitates adopting preventive and curative measures for the control of diseases. Proper research work is essential. Such varieties must be introduced using germplasm of broad base, which are resistant to diseases. It was disappointing that not a single commercial variety of mango was found resistant against quick decline a few years back and the growers cut down orchards due to quick mortality of mango trees.
Unless recommended cultivars are planted in specific agro-ecological zones, diseases would continue damaging the crop and would be difficult to control. For instance, quick decline disease was more devastating for canal-irrigated orchids but what was the cause of the prevalence of this disease in these areas is still unknown.
The common practice is to apply high doses of nitrogenous fertilisers. On the other, excessive nitrogen application causes disease spread. Improper application of fertilisers, sanitation of orchards and untimely pruning of trees enhances infection and growth of the disease-causing fungus, the growers are largely unaware.
The growers lack requisite spraying skills. Lack of knowledge on the part of growers about recommended sprays, interval of spraying, handling of sprayers, timing of spray, number of sprays, dose and growth stage are hindering timely and effective control of diseases.
It is, therefore, essential to developed integrated orchard management packages to reduce disease, improve fruit quality, reduce biennial bearing and improve mango supply chain in the country.
In this context, agriculture linkage programme that would be implemented for three years in two major mango-producing provinces Sindh and Punjab with technical assistance from Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research augurs well for the mango growers. Under the programme, all stockholders, extension officers, growers and contractors would get opportunity to help enhance their capacity for better crop management and quality production.
Major objective attached with the programme is to develop integrated orchard management packages to reduce disease, improve fruit quality, reduce biennial bearing and improve mango supply chain in the country.
Three members team headed by Dr Cheys Akem would visit different mango-growing areas across the two provinces and research institutes as well. Slow decline or dieback, quick back and sudden death of mango trees are causing devastation to mango orchards. The programme would greatly help in controlling the expanding disease.
Under the programme, improvement of nursery system would be developed for the production of high quality disease-free planting material for mango crop. This all would benefit the growers of mango who are losing millions in the backdrop of serious losses owing to disease attack.
Courtesy: The DAWN