THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The agriculture sector was one of the worst affected in the August flood. With the cropping season coming around, farmers are confronted with a host of new weeds hitherto alien to their farmlands. A survey by the Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), Peechi, has found several species of plants, including weeds, have made their way into the water bodies through flood water, posing a threat to the native biodiversity and the aquatic environment.
Under the circumstances, the state Agriculture Department is faced with the uphill task of limiting the use of weedicide among farmers. While the department had managed to cut down the use of insecticides, fungicides, and inorganic fertilisers through consistent campaigning over the years, the consumption of weedicide is now posing a big challenge.
Reena Mathew, professor and head Rice Research Station, Mankombu, Alappuzha, told Express: “We are keeping our fingers crossed as we are yet to get a clear picture on the new weeds that have made their way into farms. Some weeds will sprout without much delay, while others will take some time, depending on the nature of the species,” she said.
She pointed out the over-dependence on weedicides will increase the chemical footprint in the ecosystem. Also, farmers are likely to experiment with various weedicides to destroy weeds unfamiliar to their terrain.
For instance, almost all weedicides are manufactured with custom-made traits to destroy a particular weed. “Officials have found in some places, when farmers find different invasive species in their farmlands, pesticide retailers persuade them to create a concoction of weedicides,” said Reena.
The department is already grappling with an outbreak of pests and diseases in fields in the post-flood scenario. A senior officer said the department used to have an around ` 1.5 crore contingency fund to fight pests and diseases. This time, the department has sought an additional Rs 10 crore for the purpose, while it is yet to chalk-out a management plan for weeds.
Director of Agriculture P K Jayasree said the department has sought a comprehensive financial package from the state government to combat post-flood challenges, ranging from pest, disease and weed management to providing quality seedlings and raising total productivity.
Sorrows of the soil
Total turnover from pesticide sales is around Rs 100 crore in the state
Farmers grapple with poor aeration in the soil as the flood has severely limited the supply of oxygen to flooded soil in many regions
Flooding of soils has resulted in the increase in pH of acidic soils and decrease in pH of alkaline soils in many places the floods slowed down the rate of decomposition of organic matter in many places affecting the productivity of the crop