Mystery disease: 50 per cent of tomato crop in Maharashtra attacked

Mystery disease: 50 per cent of tomato crop in Maharashtra attacked

Pune: The tomatoes growers in Maharashtra are in a fix as the infestation of an unknown disease on the crop has damaged nearly 50 per cent of the produce. This type of disease is seen for the first time and has caused damages of more than 50 per cent to the produce, tomato-growers say.
The samples of affected fruits have been sent to the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Horticulture Research for further testing of this disease. Places in the state that has seen a major infestation of this disease include Phaltan taluka of Satara, Sangamner and Akole talukas of Ahmednagar and Narayangaon near Pune.

70 per cent yield is wasted, farmers say

A farmer from Mirewadi in Phaltan taluka in Satara district, Ajit Korade,  said, "I observed this problem in my farm around April 20, as during the normal ripening of tomatoes, the fruit has turned from green to orange and then red. However, due to this disease, the fruit becomes yellow and the surface of it becomes spongy with a pungent smell. We have observed such a problem in tomatoes for the first time. This is causing huge damage to the crop as only 30 per cent of the produce can be sold in the market while 70 per cent is wasted. I have invested around Rs three lakhs in the production in the area of total 1.5 acres. In last 15 days, almost 25 tonne have been spoiled due to this disease."

Talking about the overall production of tomatoes, Korade said, "This disease has impacted the overall production of tomatoes but due to the lockdown, the export is disturbed and also the restaurant and hotels are closed which has reduced the demand. Therefore, it did not cause any rampant increase in the prices in the market but it has taken a toll on the farmers."

Another tomato farmer from Sangamner taluka of Ahmednagar district Narayan Ghule said, "I observed this problem two months back and initially thought that this is due to climate change. However, when more such cases from nearby farms came to my knowledge, we realised that it is the infestation of some diseases. Almost 70 per cent of my total crops have been damage. A total area of tomatoes which is around 7000-8000 acres in Sangamner and Akole taluka is infested with the unknown disease. Due to the lockdown, we faced a lot of problems as we unable to send the sample."

Samples taken

Entomologist Ankush Chormale said, "The infestation can be seen in the fruits as it is causing the shrinking of fruits in its size and shape. This unknown disease is damaging their produce by more than 50 per cent. However, most of the cases are coming from Phaltan in Satara and Sangamner and Akole in Ahmednagar. This kind of infestation has been seen for the first time by the farmers.

Divisional joint Director of Agriculture (Pune division) Dilip Zende said, "There have been reports of viral infection on tomatoes from Pune and Ahmednagar district and as per the procedure, a committee comprising of block-level agriculture office, farmers and scientists was formed to collect the samples. Taking special permissions, the samples collected in the ice packs have been sent to the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research in Bengaluru. Further analysis of the samples will be done at the Centre and the future course of action will be decided based on the report."

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