KALPETTA:The Spices Board has withdrawn its ambitious project aimed at reviving pepper cultivation in Wayanad after they have proved ineffective. The Board had spent crores of rupees as part of a project, launched about five years ago, to improve pepper cultivation in the district.
The amount was given as subsidy to select growers for pepper cultivation, pepper plant nursery, pest control measures, construction of earthworm compost and organic fertiliser units.
According to officials, there was a sharp decline in production, as the crop was affected by drought as well as erratic rainfall and fungal diseases. The inclement climatic conditions had an adverse impact on the overall quality of the local pepper variety as well.
The Spices Board offices in Mullankolly and Pulpally, the two major pepper-growing panchayats in Wayanad, were shut down with the winding up of the project.
Pepper production in Wayanad, which contributes about 25 per cent of the country’s output, was seriously hit by unseasonal rain, fungal diseases and gall wasps attack, last season. Due to the deficit rainfall, there was an average yield reduction of 10-20 per cent last year, showed the data available with the Agriculture Department. And to make things worse, pepper production is expected to decline by 60 per cent next season as a major chunk of pepper vines dried up owing to the extended dry spell.
The drop in production has resulted in significant revenue loss which would not be compensated by higher prices.
Farmers said that the Board should come up with productive, resistant to disease and natural varieties to help them tide over the current crisis. Also, the pepper growers should be sensitised to adopt new farming methods farmers by teaching them the importance of soil-testing, the different schemes available for them and good farming practices.
By planting tolerant varieties and employing methods such as integrated pest management, usage of bio-control agents like trichoderma and pseudomonas, the pepper growers in Wayanad would be able to bring back the lost glory of pepper, known as ‘black gold’, agriculturists opined.