Turning brown: A cardamom orchard in Darla

Dying cardamom plants worry Darla farmers

Farmers in Darla, Chukha, are worried as the green cardamom plants, their main cash crop,  are turning brown and white.

Although it is time for the plants to bear fruits, they said that the spice is not bearing any fruit this year.

A farmer, Tshering Tempa, from Gengu village said the plants flowered satisfactorily this year but it is slowly dying.

His family invested on cardamom cultivation on two acres of land five years ago.

In 2017, Tshering Tempa harvested 80kgs of cardamom. The price was at a record low and he sold a kilogramme for Nu 500.

He said this year would be worse.

Another farmer, Goray Gurung, said he expected to harvest more than 200kgs in 2017. He harvested only 40kg. “I have no expectations this year.”

He also cultivated cardamom on two acres of his farmland five years ago.

According to him, the cardamom plants turned whitish and the productivity decreased. “Now they are turning brown, which is even worse.”

At Barkhey, farmers are experiencing the same problem.

Indra Bahadur Poudyel doesn’t know why his cardamom plants are dying.

“Frost and heat both affect the plants,” he said. “It also did not rain for a long time this year.”

Tapthangbu tshogpa, Shyam Kumar Mongar, said cardamom at higher elevations of his chiwog is not severely affected like the ones at lower areas.

He said most villagers grew cardamom considering the income it fetched. “But people do not grow anymore. Lower production in harvest and drastic decrease in prices have deterred cardamom farming.”

Kelzari tshogpa, Dawa Tshering, also said that cardamom plants are turning white and red at the lower areas of his chiwog.

“However, there are still some fields that are doing fine,” he said.

“The flowering was good this year compared to last year.”

However, good flowering is not a guarantee to better harvest, the tshogpa said, explaining the case of 2017 when the harvest was not as expected despite better flowering.

“I think it is all about timing,” Dawa tshering said, adding most cardamom plants were cultivated more than five to eight years ago.

Darla gup, Mil Kumar Mongar, said it is a disease that is affecting the plants. “Plants flowered well but they are not bearing fruit,” he said.

The gup said pesticides have not worked.

The Metedkha gewog agriculture extension officer, Thinley Gyeltshen, who was part of a team studying the cardamom disease, said the cardamoms are affected by colletotrichum blight and fusarium rot. “Both are caused by fungal pathogen and are soil borne.”

He said the diseases affect moist and humid areas.

For colletotrichum blight, he said, chemical sprays won’t work once the disease spreads since it is soil borne. “Ginger and mango are also host plants for colletotrichum blight.”

Thinley Gyeltshen said crop rotation could help. “Identification of sites before cardamom plantation should also be considered.”

He explained that once a host plant is cultivated, another host plant should not be cultivated on the same land.

He also said disease free and resilient saplings, mostly grown out of seed and nurseries can prevent colletotrichum blight. “In the case of fusarium rot, roots of the plants rot.”

Thinley Gyeltshen said drainage system, which is not managed in Darla, is one way to battle this disease.

Rajesh Rai | Darla

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