Heavy losses

Print edition : April 04, 1998

CHIEF MINISTER J.H. Patel said that in Bidar district alone an estimated 65,000 tonnes of the tur dal crop had withered away in the last season. Worth more than Rs. 52 crores, it accounted for 90 per cent of the district's tur dal crop.

Gulbarga and Bidar districts account for around 60 per cent of the pulse production in the State. Up to 75 per cent of the tur dal produced in the State comes from these districts. Their climate and the porous, medium-to-deep black soil are conducive to the cultivation of pulses. About four lakh hectares are under tur dal cultivation in the State.

Gulbarga district, where tur dal is grown as the only crop, accounts for roughly 2.80 lakh ha, and Bidar, where it is grown as a 'mixed crop' (with jowar, Bengal gram and green gram), accounts for 50,000 ha. Input costs (for seeds, pesticides and fertilizers) rarely exceed Rs. 5,000 a hectare.

The yield of tur dal is between four and five quintals a hectare in Bidar and between 12.5 and 18 quintals a hectare in Gulburga. The loss on account of failure of the crop has been Rs. 125 crores in Gulburga and Rs. 9 crores in Bidar.

TUR dal, along with other pulses like green gram and black gram, is a kharif crop. Sowing starts with the advent of the monsoon in July. Harvesting is done in December or January. The plant runs its roots deep and is known to survive droughts.

Bidar and Gulburga had poor monsoon rainfall last year. Bidar recorded 62 cm of rainfall against the normal of 94 cm and Gulbarga 59.5 cm against the normal of 76.9 cm. Although scanty rains between July and October stunted the growth of the tur dal crop, showers in the second week of October rejuvenated it. Black gram and green gram, which have shorter, 90-100 day cycles, were lost but the tur dal crop, which has a 180-200-day cycle, survived.

Around this time, the farmers took steps to control the tur pod borer, which feeds on nearly 180 plant species, including cotton, tur dal, sunflower and a number of vegetables. Farmers either manually removed the finger-sized pests from the plants and burnt them or used biological methods such as luring the male pest into pheromone traps or by devising methods to attract birds that would eat the pests. They even resorted to the use of chemical pesticides.

Prolonged unseasonal rain and continuous cloudy conditions from mid-November to December 1997 washed away the chemical pesticides. Bidar recorded 137.2 mm of rainfall against a normal of 29.9 mm in November, and 31.7 mm against 3.4 mm in December. Gulburga recorded 29.82 mm of rainfall against a normal of 5.78 mm in November and 30.39 mm against 5.18 mm in December.

S.B. Biradar, Joint Director of Agri-culture, Gulburga, said: "The pest could not be controlled because plants need 24 to 48 hours of dry weather for the effective absorption of pesticides after spraying." In cloudy weather, the pod borer moth lays thrice as many eggs as its normal number of 500 eggs a day; the hatching rate improves from 50 to 60 per cent to almost 100 per cent. With a 15-day egg-to-larva cycle, the crops were damaged quickly.

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