MUMBAI: While the nation is struggling to contain the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the farmers in Maharashtra have one more reason to worry. The tomato growers in parts of Maharashtra are seriously worried about an unidentified disease that is causing early ripening of their crops, leading to huge financial losses to them.
According to reports, the farmers across Maharashtra are attributing this disease to ‘Tiranga’ virus, which they claim is damaging the tomato crop to a massive extent in the state. This unidentified disease or Tiranga virus has decimated about 60 per cent of the crop in Ahmednagar, Pune and Nashik districts in the last 10 days, as per reports.
Ramesh Vakle, a local tomato farmer, confirmed that the disease has done massive damage to the crops in Maharashtra.
''The plant leaves are drying up fast and the tomatoes are developing irregular shapes and colour and ripening prematurely. The crop ready for harvesting has been lost to this unidentified disease. Due to this, we are not getting buyers for our tomatoes,'' he said.
Though experts are trying to identify the disease, it still remains unidentified. Also, due to the lockdown, the samples of the diseased tomatoes are not reaching national laboratories for further scientific analysis
Farmers fear that if this viral attack is not controlled then it could spread to other crops. They also want advice on what precautionary steps to be taken before replanting the crop so that the crops are not affected all over again.
Tomatoes are widely used across cuisines all over the country. Due to the massive demand, the crop is planted and harvested throughout the year. The plant is ready for harvest after two months of sowing and the tomatoes can be plucked up to four times a year.
It is grown mainly in irrigated areas of Satara, Pune, Ahmednagar and Nashik. The summer tomato is a prized crop that helps farmers in these regions earn well as they are exported to Bangladesh and Dubai.
Farmers normally start preparation of the crop in February with the first picking commencing late April. The crop normally feeds the market till July, after which the second or Kharif crop takes over.