BANGALORE: A viral attack across the state has resulted in a 66 per cent decline in papaya yield in 2011-12 as compared to the previous fiscal.
Production in 2011-12 has been around two lakh tonnes instead of the usual eight lakh tonnes. The horticulture department attributes this to the viral attack and the prevailing drought.
“There are two reasons for the decline in production - Papaya Ringspot Virus (PRSV) and - Mealy Bugs. The virus has attacked the crop much before the drought,” said Additional Director of Department of Horticulture (fruits and flowers) S V Hittalmani.
Consequently, the fruit, which is usually sold at Rs 10 per kilogram, is now sold at Rs 20.
Lack of care and planting techniques such as grafting increase the risk to PRSV, characterised by yellowing of leaves followed by dark-green streaks. Chamarajanagar, Bagalkot, Bijapur, Dakshina Kannada, Chikmagalur and Mandya are major papaya growing regions in the state with the Red Lady variant comprising 99 per cent of the production.
According to data available with the horticulture department, acreage under papaya cultivation has decreased from 18,000 hectares to 7,000 hectares in the last couple of years.
Hittalmani regretted that research institutes have been working for over a decade for a solution to the ringspot virus, and are yet to come up with a virus resistant variant.
“Farmers should switch to other crops like banana or vegetables,” Hittalmani said.
However, professor and Head of Plant Pathology department, University of Agriculture Sciences, GKVK, Prof B M Ramakrishna Reddy, said, “PRSV is virulent, and alters its DNA; hence it is difficult to find a permanent solution.”
Places like Bangalore are ideal for insect breeding as the temperature suits them.
There is no temporary solution than to let it die. Isolating the plant will reduce the risk, Reddy added.
A survey by the horticulture department, Bangalore, on commercial orchards and kitchen gardens in of south Karnataka in 2011 revealed that PRSV was prevalent in all locations.