KOZHIKODE: On the face of it, ginger cultivation and toilet cleaners have little connection. But some farmers in North Kerala have established a link between them. It will indeed leave you flabbergasted. Many farmers in Wayanad and nearby districts, who have ventured into Karnataka to cultivate ginger on leased lands, have found an unusual remedy for a devastating bacterial disease affecting the crop - chemical solutions used for cleaning toilets! Rhizome rot (soft rot), which starts with yellowing of the stem before damaging roots and plant of ginger, is one of the most dreaded diseases in Wayanad and Idukki - districts that top ginger farming.
Farmers who have applied toilet cleaners such as Harpic and Sanifresh as a last resort to tackle the disease said they found the method more effective than conventional antibiotics like streptomycin and tetracycline. Kalpetta-based farmer Pedappattil George said he used Sanifresh, a popular toilet cleaner, at his ginger fields in Kalpetta and Nanjangud in Karnataka and the results were immediate.
“A small quantity of cleaner was mixed in around 10 litres of water and applied around the root of the affected plants. The experiment yielded instant results as it controlled the disease and its spread to other plants,” he said. Siby Thomas, a farmer from Mananthavady, said he tried out various methods before Harpic, another popular toilet cleaner, came to his rescue.
Meherban C H, principal agricultural officer in-charge of Wayanad, said the department was yet to conduct a scientific study on the use of toilet cleaners as bactericide. “Farmers have claimed that they are effective in controlling the disease. But we cannot endorse any method other than those approved by government agencies,” she said.
According to Sudhakar S, plant protection specialist at the Bapooji Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Idukki, bleaching powder, a major ingredient in toilet cleaners, which has ability to kill bacteria, doing the trick. “Farmers claim this cost-effective method is successful in controlling the disease. In a short time, it gained popularity among farmers in Idukki, Wayanad and Keralites cultivating ginger in Karnataka,” he said. However, potential health hazards of the ‘pesticide’ are yet to be ascertained by government agencies. Food safety joint commissioner K Anil Kumar said only harvested crops came under the department’s purview.