Thursday, 2 December 2010

Bhutan - Citrus Greening devastates orange orchards

Orange growers in Phuentsholing are bracing themselves for bad news. It has not been confirmed but their orange trees may have been infected by a disease known as citrus greening.

Citrus greening is a bacterial disease and it is causing extensive damage to orange trees across the country.

There seems to be only one solution- uproot all the trees in the orchard and burn them.

According to Gyem Tshering, an Agriculture Extension Officer in Phuenstholing Geog, “there is no cure for citrus greening disease. Uprooting and destroying the trees is the only way to eradicate citrus greening.”

And it is not only the infected trees which will have to be uprooted and burnt. “Even if a single tree is infected, all the other trees in the orchard will also have to be burnt,” says Gyem Tshering.

This is going to be a painful decision for the orange growers. Orange is an important cash crop and for many families, it is their only source of income.

In Chhukha, one of the main orange growing districts, the disease has already been detected in some areas like Baikuenza. The trees have been uprooted and burnt. The exercise is already underway in Dorjansey under Darla Geog. It will soon move to Phuentsholing Geog, if the trees are found to have been infected.

Farmers in Phuenstholing Geog are hoping against hope that it will not come to this. But the indications are that it most probably will.

Ran Maya, a farmer in Ramitey in Phuentsholing, says “the yield has been dropping year after year. The trees are shedding their leaves for no rhyme or reason. Only about four years ago, the harvest was bountiful.”

Ran Maya and her family are busy. It is harvest season, usually a happy occasion. This time, their mood has already been dampened by what is happening in nearby areas.

Ran Maya’s orchard is huge by Bhutanese standards, measuring about three acres with more than 250 fruit bearing trees.

The leaves from the infected trees will be sent to the National Plant Protection Centre in Simtokha, Thimphu. And if they show that the trees have been infected, Ran Maya and her neighbours will lose their orchards. For now all they can do is pray.

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