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Waterless banana withers away

Not many takers for the crop in Tiruchi district this year

Given the continuing drought condition, the standing banana crop in different parts of Tiruchi and Karur districts have started withering, causing serious concern to cultivators.

Tiruchi district and a section of Karur district are known for banana cultivation in the State, thanks to the well-connected canal irrigation system along the Cauvery. The last season (2016-17) turned out to be a damp squib for banana growers due to total failure of both the Southwest and Northeast monsoons and premature closure of Mettur dam because of poor storage. The withering crop suggests that the current year season will be worse than last year.

Farmers generally plant banana saplings in April and May. This year, however, many have backed out due to bleak prospects of canal irrigation.

Statistics of the horticultural department show that just about 1,000 hectares have been brought under banana in Tiruchi district against the normal coverage of 7,000 hectares. Similarly, only a few farmers at Kulithalai in Karur district, who have pump set irrigation, have planted ‘nendiran’ and ‘nei poovan’ varieties. Most of them took a huge risk, their hopes resting on recharge of ground water due to early release of water from the Mettur dam.

But their calculations have gone awry with the continuation of the dry spell. Moreover, the opening of the Mettur dam in the near future appears remote. With the drastic decline in the ground water table, banana cultivators find it extremely difficult to irrigate the standing crop.

“I have raised banana with pump set irrigation. I never expected that the water table will go down to such an extreme level,” said K. Durairaj of Jeeyapuram, who has raised banana on six acres of land. “The water table is beyond the reach of bore wells. I am not able to irrigate the crop regularly and they are withering. I do not know how to save them.”

Banana cultivators are facing untold sufferings and loss, said Puliyur A. Nagarajan, president, farmers’ wing of Tamil Maanila Congress. And he wants officials of the horticultural department and the National Research Centre for Banana (NRCB) to reach out to farmers to save the standing crop.

According to R. Krishnamoorthy, Deputy Director, Horticultural Department, the department could not achieve the banana cultivation area coverage this year due to continuing drought. Only farmers, who have pump set irrigation, have raised banana. And the prospects are not encouraging.


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