High Time to Restore Fruit Quality

Published on: 09:50AM Sep 17, 2009

"Dad grew bigger bunches, and each one was like the one in the center".

Prem Nath made sure that I had framed the picture correctly in my digital camera, which needless to say, is actually a cell-phone.

Owners of mango orchards in India rub their hands in glee. Oil-rich Sheikhs have always had envious eyes on the luscious flesh of our mangoes, and President Bush paved the way for Americans to enjoy them as well, before he retired to his ranch.

Swathes of poor Indians can no longer indulge in the luxury of eating baskets-full of mangoes, but it is all to the good from th perspective of an orchard owner, with piles of fertilizer, pesticide, and labor bills to settle.

Veteran growers maintain that inflorescences no longer bear as many fruits as during the times of their forefathers, and many of the buds do not grow to their natural sizes and shapes. This kind of decline is not limited to mangoes, or to fruits for that matter. Vegetables and beans share the phenomenon.

The irony is that systemic insecticides and synthetic pyrethroids are relatively new to the Indian farming scene. They have inflated farm costs beyond doubt. The pests keep coming, and seem to win every battle. Can you suggest a solution?

I believe that pest management has taken precedence over pollination. This matters less for hybrids and for crops that make do with self-pollination. However, the continuing slide in honeybee numbers is a matter of great concern.

It is time for mango growers to roll up their sleeves as the South West monsoon gets ready to depart. The next six months will determine 2010 profits. I vote for honeybees. Nurture natural nests and invest in hives as well. Keep track of your pollinators. Give them right of way over your pesticide choices.