Pakistan may not be able to harvest a healthy crop of mangoes this summer because Sindh’s mango orchards have been stricken by a contagious and deadly plague.
The mango death syndrome which consists of different diseases, of which the deadliest is the sudden death disease, is raging across the province while endangering the entire crop of mangoes this season.
Mir Zafarullah Talpur, an orchard owner in Tando Jan Muhammad near Mirpur Khas, explains how this disease affects mango trees.
It causes the leaves and flowers to suddenly turn brown, wither, wilt, and drop to the ground. The twigs of the plant, meanwhile, turn dark. We have to cut the infected twig to save the rest of the tree.
Talpur said that this the first time that his orchard which covers over 60 acres of land has been infected to a vast extent. He believes that this strange disease is a result of climate change, and feels helpless knowing that it currently has no remedy.
Experts call it the sudden death disease because it appears suddenly and there is no spray [pesticide] to rid the trees of this disease. There is no other option but to cut the infected twigs and branches.
He advises orchard owners and keepers to be more careful as the mango death syndrome can travel easily from farm to farm and destroy other mango crops.
According to him, the predicament has affected up to 30 percent of Sindh’s mango orchards nearly two months before the riping of the crop.
Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Hyderabad, Tando Jam, and Tando Allahyar are among the leading mango-producing areas in lower Sindh, and all of them have been affected by the sudden death syndrome.
Mohammad Umar Bughio from Mirpurkhas, who grows only the export quality Sindhri variety on his 100-acres of land, is also puzzled by the outbreak.
“Around 20 to 25 percent of my crop has been damaged,” he said.
He lamented about the apathy of the concerned authorities and said that although the growers face similar issues every year, the extent to which the disease has spread this year is more serious.
“No one has bothered to conduct research and come up with a remedy,” he added.
Bughio believes the unusually hot weather in February this year has led to the occurrence of the disease.
We have never seen the temperature rise from 35 °C to 40°C in February. I believe the hot weather has badly affected the mango flower, called borr in Sindhi.
He remarked that the shortage of water is another likely cause of the problem.
“If it continues like this, mango production in Sindh will decline,” he said.