Root wilt disease takes toll on coconut trees in Tamil Nadu
The major symptoms of the disease are wilting of leaves and drooping, ribbing, paling, yellowing, and necrosis of leaflets.
COIMBATORE: Farmers in Pollachi and Anaimalai taluks are clueless on how to control the unprecedented spread of root (wilt) disease (RWD), also known as Kerala wilt disease, in coconut palms.
According to sources, the disease is caused by phytoplasma, is one of the most devastating diseases of coconut palms. The major symptoms of the disease are wilting of leaves and drooping, ribbing, paling, yellowing, and necrosis of leaflets.
T Rathinasabapathi, a farmer from Aliyar said “If the disease starts spreading, the entire grove will be affected in no time. The disease is spreading fast in the region in the last one year. We have no option than to remove trees as no treatment is available. Earlier, groves bordering Kerala were affected by the disease. Now, the disease has spread in the entire Anaimalai Taluk.”
KS Balachandran, a farmer in Kanjampatti, said “The disease has spread to Meenakshipuram, Kottur, Vettaikkaranpudur, Thappattai Kilavan Pudur, Sedimuthur and Kolarpatti villages in Anaimalai taluk. Despite the removal of affected tree, the disease spreads again on newly planted trees.”
According to farmers, coconut tree gives yield after five years after planting. A farmer spends around Rs 10,000 on a tree in the first five years. The lifespan of a tree is 70 - 100 years, but the wilt disease affects trees aged 10 - 15 years.
“Under the scheme of re-plantation and rejuvenation implemented by the Coconut Board of India, a farmer can get 32 trees with Rs 900 for each affected tree by the disease. It would not be enough to meet the loss faced. Also, there is no proper disbursal of insurance claims to affected farmers,” said Balachandran.
TA Krishnasami, president of United Coconut Growers Association of South India said, “The price of coconut has plummeted to less than Rs 8 per piece and crippled farmers economically. The spread of diseases has only added to their woes . The state government should take efforts to save remaining trees in the region.”
When contacted, K Muthulakshmi, joint director of the agricultural department said, “Along with Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) are working to prevent the spread. TNAU has manufactured a preventive medicine ‘cococon’ for the disease and we are conducting awareness sessions. Further, farmers can prevent the spread using nutrients and fertilizers such as NPK to strengthen the immunity of trees.”
V Geethalakshmi, Vice Chancellor of TNAU, said”The spread of disease is found along the lands in the Western Ghats area in Coimbatore. Healthy coconut trees could be saved despite the spread. We advise farmers to give adequate nutrients in each tree to prevent spread.”