Unknown disease ravaging banana plantations in eastern NepalFarmers are planning to send samples to Indian laboratories to identify the disease.
The disease first appeared six months ago and has been spreading around the plantations since.
Once infected, the corm – a swollen underground stem of the popular fruit — decays and the leaves turn pale-yellow before the plant dies.
“We are facing troubles identifying the disease while it is spreading at an alarming rate,” said Kul Prasad Chimriya, a farmer. “We are undertaking sanitary measures to treat the plants but to no avail.”
The plant does not bear berries once infected and if it already has born some, the bananas do not grow but rot.
According to Chimariya, the disease has also taken its toll on new plants.
“More than 150 plants have witnessed corm decay in our plantation,” said Laxmi Chimariya. “Officials from Agriculture Knowledge Centre have also inspected the plantation but have not identified the disease yet.”
According to Chimariya, farmers are planning to send samples to Indian laboratories with help from the centre to identify the disease.
Around 28 farmers in the region have retired from paddy cultivation and have leased 48 bighas of land for commercial banana farming. The farmers earn around half a million rupees per bigha from the plantation.
The Chimariya brothers who have leased 10 bighas, say they invested Rs1.2 million to earn around Rs2.8 million by selling the fruit grown over 7 bighas in the last harvest season that ended mid-July.
Traders from Kathmandu haul the bananas produced by farmers in the region.
“We just have to cultivate and traders from Kathmandu come to the plantations, reap the berries and haul the bananas at their own cost,” said Milan Sangraula, another farmer.
The disease has also spread at a time when the farmers were planning to lease an additional 50 bighas for commercial banana farming in view of good profits.
“We do not need government incentives and subsidies but urge the government to take measures to contain this disease,” said Chimariya.
According to Shesh Raj Poudel, an officer at the centre, authorities are working to identify the strange disease. “We have to identify and eradicate the disease or else it will cause extensive damage to the fruits and the whole plantation,” said Poudel.