Red rot puts popular Indian cane variety at risk – The New Indian Express

The prevalence of red rot in a very popular variety of cane in Uttar Pradesh further confirms that there is insurance in variety.

Co 0238 developed by Bakshi Ram, former Director of Sugarcane Breeding Institute, Coimbatore and released for North Indian states in 2009, spread across UP with the speed of fake news on social media. In 2020-21, it covered 88 per cent of UP’s cane area, up from three per cent in 2013-14.

There are two reasons for this.

Co 0238 is highly productive. Approximately 2.5 to 2.75 cm in diameter, 0.25 cm thick from “medium thick” and “medium thin” varieties. New agronomic techniques such as ditch planting, row loosening, furrow irrigation, litter mulching, application of farmyard manure and the beneficial microbe Trichoderma have increased the height of the cane and increased the average yield to 820 quintals per hectare (g/ha). 600 g/ha yield of the previous popular variety.

Mills prefer the variety for its high sugar content, which reaches 18 percent at 300 days. The higher the sugar content, the greater the recovery. The average sugar recovery of UP mills increased from 9.07 per cent in 2010-11 to 11.73 per cent in 2019-20. Last year it was 11.43 percent. This made UP the largest producer of sugarcane and also the largest producer of sugar beating Maharashtra. During the last eight years, UP’s annual sugar production averaged 96 lakh tonnes compared to Maharashtra’s 86 lakh tonnes.

With extra care, farmers can achieve better than average yields.

Anurag Shukla, 46, from Udranpur village in Shahabad tehsil, entered the state-level competition last year with the intention of winning an award. Its projected yield per hectare (2.47 acres) from five bighas (six bighas to an acre) was 2,468 quintals. Employees of the state sugarcane department conducted the harvesting exercise and certified the crop. But because he could not provide the same care, the yield from the rest of his farm was low, so the average for the farm as a whole was 986 quintals/hectare. His uncle, Ravi Shankar Shukla, 64, harvested only 687 quintals/hectare even though his land was of equivalent quality.

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The soft and high sugar variety falls victim to a red rot described as cane canker. The fungal infestation is so extensive that replacement with other varieties was considered a more viable alternative at the UP state-level variety release committee meeting in August.

Ram, who worked as a consultant to sugar mills after retirement, says he advised them to reduce the area under cultivation of the variety. He says to provide farmers with clean, uninfected seed grown in nurseries or tissue culture laboratories. Before planting, the seeds should be treated with fungicides. Areas should also be treated with trichoderma, which feeds on the fungus. If a field is infected, cane cannot be planted there for a year. It is better to grow rice there because stagnant water kills fungi.

It is important to maintain variety until it can be effectively replaced.

Raja Srivastava, who heads the corporate cane department at DCM Shriram, which has four sugar mills in central UP, says the spread is so extensive that his farmers are advised to grow replacement varieties like Co 0118, CoLK 94184, Co 15923 and CoLK 14201. Co 0238’s share of its captive cane area has fallen from a peak of 88 percent to 54 percent.

There are farmers who continue to grow the popular variety. Infestation in their fields may be light. Or they may not have options. But it is generally believed to be in decline. Productivity decreases and sugar levels decrease.

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what are the lessons

Obviously, monoculture is never advisable. Farmers must grow several varieties.

Previously, mills required farmers to plant early-maturing, mid-late and late-maturing varieties to match the crushing schedule of cane coming into the mill so that the mills would run 160-180 days a year. This practice should be revived.

Farmers should also adopt integrated pest management rather than relying on chemicals. Application of crop rotation, application of farmyard manure, treatment of soil with beneficial soil microbes that check pests and pathogens and enhance cane immunity, and use of less harmful green label pesticides should form part of the package of practices. The share of any variety should not exceed 50 percent.

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