Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district along with its neighbours, accounts for nearly 40% of India’s litchi production
Large numbers of litchi trees are dying in several orchards of Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district due to heavy water-logging after surplus monsoon rains this year. This is going to be a big loss for the litchi farmers of Bihar, who were badly hit by low demand during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) lockdown this year and 2020.
Sanjay Kr Singh, a litchi farmer from Radhanagar in Mushahari block, is worried: “We have no knowledge to deal with this phenomenon. This is the first time that on an average, roughly 15-20 per cent litchi trees have died here. There are fears of more trees dying in the coming days.”
He added that more than 3,000 trees had dried out in Mushahari. Besides, hundreds of mango trees have also died in the block.
Another litchi farmer, Mukul Shahi of Kanti block, said nearly 20 per cent of litchi trees had dried out due to heavy waterlogging this time.
“We have never seen such a bad situation. Even if 5-10 trees dry out in an orchard, it is a big loss for a farmer as it will take years for new trees to mature and be ready for harvest. We can only seek help from the officials of the state horticulture department and National Research Centre on Litchi (NRCL) in Muzaffarpur.” He said.
Shahi said black ants, insects and fungus had attacked and damaged the roots of trees during the long period of waterlogging in orchards.
“So far, nearly 2,000 trees of litchi as well as mango have dried out in the block. Waterlogging is a big problem here and timely drainage of water is the only solution to protect trees,” Lakhendar Rai, a litchi farmer of Kurhani block, said.
He added that rainwater usually failed to recede from orchards naturally because of a lack of proper channels. “The construction of state and national highways have blocked the route for water drainage,” he said.
“Litchi trees have been dying due to waterlogging for the last four months. Several farmers have recently approached us to save the trees. We will issue an advisory to litchi farmers on what to do to protect trees,” SD Pandey, director of NRCL in Muzaffarpur, said.
Pandey said 10-12 per cent of mostly young and weak litchi trees were affected by waterlogging this time.
A destroyed litchi orchard in Muzaffarpur. Photo: Imran Khan
“Trees were deprived of oxygen and nutrients due to waterlogging. This damaged the roots. Those trees that are still green, have to be protected by ploughing orchards and by spraying fungicides,” he said.
Sambhu Prasad, assistant director of horticulture, Muzaffarpur, said the actual numbers of dead trees would be known by December-end.
“This is climate change. Surplus rainfall in June itself resulted in waterlogging and unexpected heavy rainfall in October created more troubles,” LM Yadav, head of the horticulture department at the Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University in Samastipur district, said.
Litchi orchards are spread over nearly 12,000 hectares of Muzaffarpur district. The district, along with some of its neighbours, accounts for nearly 40 per cent of India’s litchi production.
This year, Bihar has received only three per cent surplus rainfall till September 30 after the arrival of the monsoon on time. This is less than last year when the state received 25 per cent surplus rainfall from June to September.
Heavy rainfall in the state is normal during July and August. But Bihar received surplus rainfall in June this year, just as the monsoon arrived. This resulted in floods in the low-lying areas. Heavy rains in October caused havoc.
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