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Tomato crop hit by curl virus

January 28, 2013

TOMATO crop is facing severe yellow leaf curl virus coupled with blight pathogen attack, which has affected its size and yield badly this year.

The situation forced authorities to conduct a probe following hue and cry by growers that it is a hybrid seed variety that has put them into a difficult situation. Farmers are now demanding the seed company compensate for the loss.

Findings along with recommendations of inquiry committee formed by director general agriculture extension are awaited. The committee, which represents growers and extension, research and horticulture officials, has collected samples from different districts.

The test results of the samples analysed at the research wing’s laboratory Tandojam prove that the crop has been hit by soil and seed-borne attacks. The yellow leaf curl virus is seed-borne while early or late blight pathogen is soil-borne virus. While the latter can be controlled by rotational change of soil, the seed variety needs to be replaced.

According to DG Research Atta Soomro, tomato production will be wiped out from Sindh if the seed company does not replace this variety.

The research officials collected samples from three fields — Tandojam, Kot Ghulam Mohammad and Umerkot. Researchers say the seed variety in question has become susceptible to these attacks. The farmers who carry out adequate number of sprays as precautionary measures are able to get a decent crop per acre yield. But since many do not go for such measures in order to avoid increasing cost of production, they end up suffering. An alternate variety is being advised.

Farmers have been growing hybrid 1359 for last several years. Growers opt for the variety if they are going for early, medium or late sowing of the crop. According to some estimates, compared to previous production of 800 to 1200 cartons/bucket (15kg each) per acre, they could only get 600 cartons/buckets per acre this season.

Sindh’s tomato production in 2011-12 was recorded at 141,586 metric tonnes as compared to 114, 771 metric tonnes the previous year, according to official figures. Tomato has a three months crop cycle. Growers prepare its nursery in July for early sowing and then its harvest continues as late as February next year with a few gaps. This year, complaints of poor per acre yield have been reported in Kunri, Tharparkar, Umerkot, Thatta and Badin which are considered as the tomato belt.

This year’s yield of hybrid1359 seed is even less than the crop obtained from F1 seed production. F1 seed is said to be the one which is preserved from crop of a given year.

“The seed company should at least make payment of seed to growers as was done previously when sunflower production had reported serious losses”, says Mian Saleem, a farmer from Kunri.

A farmer from Badin, Allah Dad Nizamani, explains that if it comes to taking ideal yield per acre, the growers expect 800 to 1200 buckets of tomato from an acre According to him this year he got 600 bags from an acre due to seed problem while all other requirements of cultivation and sowing were properly met. Director General Agriculture Extension Hidayatullah Chajjro agrees with farmers that they should be given some compensation in case there is a problem in seed. “Since this seed is imported, it is federal government’s job to take action against the company. We will certainly be writing to federal government to take up the matter with company accordingly. I have sent the committee’s findings back to it requiring them to give their specific recommendations as to what should be done now”, he said.