‘Wrong weather forecast’ puts coffee crop in Karnataka at risk

Expecting monsoon on June 1, farmers chopped off branches of shade trees exposing tender berries to summer-like sunlight

Expecting monsoon on June 1, farmers chopped off branches of shade trees exposing tender berries to summer-like sunlight

An ‘unfortunately’ incorrect weather forecast by India Meteorological Department (IMD) has put coffee farmers in Karnataka in jeopardy.

On the basis of the Met department’s prediction of an early monsoon, coffee growers in Karnataka prepared for rains on June 1. However, the coffee estates in Kodagu, Chikkamagaluru, Hassan districts are yet to see any sign of rain as on June 17.

Expecting monsoon in the first week of June 1, towards the end of May, most coffee farmers carried out shade regulation through chopping the branches of secondary shade trees on their plantations to ensure maximum sunlight on the plants during the monsoon. In the absence of rain, coffee plants are being exposed to excessive heat and summer-like sunlight.

Shade lopping (called dadap lopping, with dadaps being fast growing trees of the genus Erythrina) is undertaken just before or at the onset of monsoon as retaining thick shade during monsoon could lead to disruption of free flow of oxygen in the orchard, which may lead to berry dropping, wet foot condition and rotting of stalk.

Mandanna of Subramhanya Estate at Suntikoppa in Kodagu district says, “The entire coffee belt was set for the monsoon on June 1. But unfortunately, Met department’s weather prediction has gone haywire. A delayed monsoon has brought additional concerns to the coffee-growing community.”

According to him, coffee plantations should have ideally received 5 to 6 inches of rain in June, but, as of now, they have not received any rain so far.

“More than half of June has passed and monsoon is yet to set in. Rains are very critical for the development of berries, and also to keep white stem borer away from coffee plants,” said Mr. Mandanna, who is a member of the Coffee Board.

Shirish Vijayendra, a planter from Mudigere and former chairman of Karnataka Planters’ Association, said, “A delayed monsoon would adversely affect the coffee crop this year. Not only coffee, it has also impacted pepper flowering and corn formation, and also paddy cultivation in most parts of Karnataka. Most days are very sunny, as if we are still in summer. It is not a good sign for most crops, including coffee.”

Anil Kumar Bhandari, President of India Coffee Trust (ICT) and a large planter from Suntikoppa, said, “The delayed monsoon has added to our problems. If the rains are going to be further delayed by another 4 to 6 days, there will be a significant impact on production due to poor crop formation.’’

Coffee growers say they purchased manure in bulk to fertilise and nourish their plantations, but the task can be carried out only if the soil has enough moisture to dissolve and absorb the fertiliser.

“We are yet to apply fertilisers in our plantations, owing to the lack of moisture on the ground,” lamented Sindhu Jagdish, a small farmer from Ponnampet in Kodagu district.

Simpadipura: Tracing the roots of the veena

Simpadipura: Tracing the roots of the veena
| Video Credit: Siddhi Jojare

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