Dry weather affects rubber plants in northeast India

Agartala, April 16 (IANS) Immature rubber plants of two-four years are drying up in India’s northeastern region owing to prolonged dry weather, leaving the growers worried about their produce, an official said here Tuesday.

The symptoms begin with yellowing of leaves and eventually branches of the rubber trees becoming partially or completely dry.

“Contemplating this as disease, the anxious growers have been using chemicals on their rubber plants under the influence of a section of unscrupulous traders,” a Rubber Board official said.

The Kerala-based Rubber Research Institute of India (RRII) under the Rubber Board has advised the growers that the symptoms are not of any disease and that there is no need to spray any kind of chemical.

“Experts have investigated the problem and the growers have been advised that the prevailing hot and dry conditions are causing the drying of plants. There is no need to use fungicide or any other chemical as it is not a disease,” RRII Deputy Director S.K. Dey told IANS.

“As an immediate measure, growers are advised to provide shade to young rubber plants until the rains arrive. The main trunk of the plant can be whitewashed with clay to protect it from direct sun. Mulching can also be provided at the base of the plants,” he said.

The official said the symptoms will persist until it rains, but the measures would prevent the plants from drying out completely.

According to the Rubber Board official, over 40 percent of the 12,000 hectares of new rubber gardens have been affected in Tripura alone.

Weather department officials said the prevailing dry weather in the pre-monsoon period (March-May) is not a normal phenomenon. In most parts of the northeastern region, except Arunachal Pradesh, there has been a huge deficit in rainfall so far.

“Some rains are likely to occur in the next couple of days,” an official said.

After Kerala, Tripura has the second largest area under rubber plant cultivation in the country with 60,000 hectare in the state producing about 26,000 tonne of natural rubber in 2010-11.

In India’s northeast, especially Tripura, rubber cultivation is yielding a better life for poor tribals, who were practicing ‘jhum’ or the slash-and-burn method of cultivation, and dramatically altering the economy of the region.

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