NRCC treatment increases orange production in Tripura hills

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Agartala, Dec 16: The production of oranges at Jampui hills, along the Tripura-Mizoram border, has increased this year by about 4.89 per cent, thanks to the National Research Centre for Citrus (NRCC), Nagpur.

According to official records, about 25.24 tonnes oranges were produced on 5,267 hectares, which attracted a large number of visitors with its virgin forests, peaceful and eco-friendly ambience while offering an ideal opportunity for leisure tourism.

With the steady decrease in orange production at the Jampui ranges, the Tripura government had sought the NRCC's intervention to produce disease-free orange seeds and their multiplication as well as to establish disease-free sweet oranges orchards using STG technique in 2000.

Initial studies by the NRCC revealed that the gardens had been facing the problem of natural decay of the orange plants, which needed replantation to ensure standardised external and internal quality and harvesting maturity for 'Ambia' (spring blossom) crop of oranges.

Besides replantation of the gardens in a phased manner, the NRCC scientists had suggested developing eco-friendly non-hazardous pre and post-harvest treatment to extend shelf and storage life and to produce good yield.

NRCC Director Dr Shyam Singh said orange gardens at Jampui hills had faced serious threat from Canker, one of the most widespread and serious diseases of citrus in India, especially in Acid lime and orange cultivation.

The diseased plants were characterised by the occurrence of conspicuous erumpent lesions that develop on leaves, twigs and fruits.

The Canker lesions start as pinpoint spots and attain a diameter of 3-10 mm, Dr Singh stated, adding that in leaves, a yellowish halo often surrounds the lesion. Severe infection results in defoliation, dieback and premature fruit drop, which the Jampui hills had been facing since the past decade.

Canker caused fruit losses from abscission and non-marketable quality due to lesions because the affected fruits had unimpressive colour and shape without any changes in the taste, Dr Singh pointed out. However, the affected oranges presented an unattractive sight to the consumers causing the drop in the sales.

He maintained that most of the citrus plants had been afflicted by the bacteria Xanthomonas axonopodis pv.citri, a short, rod shaped, motile and gram negative bacterium.

Explaining the disease, Dr Singh informed that the bacteria survived in lesions in leaves, twigs and branches which constituted the source of inoculums to spread the disease from season to season and bacteria from the Canker lesions are disseminated mostly by wind and rainfall.

Other means of short-distance dissemination included insects (leaf miner), contaminated pruning and harvesting tools while long-distance dissemination took place through diseased planting material and infection by the bacteria occurred primarily through stomata, other natural openings and wounds formed due to strong winds and insects.

The disease is most severe in hot, wet, cloudy climate, particularly during the rainy season. Temperature between 25-30 C with evenly distributed rains is most suitable for the disease, which was one of important causes of declining orange production in Jampui, the NRCC director underlined.

The Jampui Hills, about 3,000 feet above the sea level, the premier one among the six principal hill ranges of Tripura and a permanent seat of spring, provides an exhilarating experience for the tourists. State Tourism department records said more than 4,000 domestic and foreign tourists visited Jampui in the past two months.

Jampui, about 250 km from Agartala, lying on the western side of Mizoram and in the southern part of the Chittagong hill tracts of Bangladesh, consists of tribal villages, mostly of the Lushai and Reang tribes and is famous for its charming landscape and bracing climate.

The winter seems to be the ideal season at the Jampui hills. As the sun sets, the horizon changes and rearranges itself every moment in quick succession and a sweet gentle breeze blows down the valleys unhindered, providing a soothing experience to the tourists.

On the hill slopes are abundant orange cultivations, the only major source of livelihood for the inhabitants. The lush and bountiful orchards provide a picturesque sight, a unique synchronization of green and orange, emanating a golden aura.

The early morning landscape is especially a treat to watch as the snow-white-marvel-valley seems like shawl of widespread fog over the valley. The tourist lodge at Vanghmun provides a spectacular view to enthrall one's heart, Gorge Peter, a Canadian tourist, vouched.

To further attract the tourists, boating facilities have been arranged at the Sabual village in the hill ranges and a view point would be constructed at Betalongchip, equipped with powerful telescopes, from where tourists can have a clear view of the Mizoram capital, the Chittagong hill tract, the hill ranges of Tripura and Shakhan Valley, state Tourism Director Subhas Das said.

The place is famous for Orchids, oranges and the scenic beauties from the hill tops and an ideal tourist spot round the year as there is little variation in the temperature.

UNI

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