Monday , 25 June 2018

Buying healthy plants

Miguel Braganza

The rains have set in and the natural urge is to plant a tree. Plant nurseries have a variety of plants for sale. Vegetable seeds of good quality are a little hard to come by. Quite a few vegetable seeds in the market are brightly coloured which suggests they have been treated with poisonous chemicals that prevent damage by insects during storage. Some members of Consumer Forums across Goa have flagged the issue concerning the door-to-door sale of coconut seedlings and mango grafts by salesmen from other states with tall claims about quality, early bearing and high productivity of the plants. Photos, genuine or fake, of heavy bearing plants are shown to people to convert them into customers for the merchandise. After four to five years of caring for these plants, consumers realise that they have been duped. It is like so many chit funds that people continue to invest in after knowing of thousands who have been cheated. It is too late and the salesmen are no longer traceable. The nurseries are not even registered in the state they are stated to be located in.

The Directorate of Agriculture (including ATMA of North and South Goa) has conducted various exhibitions and melas on its own or in collaboration with other agencies across Goa. Exhibitions are also conducted by the Botanical Society of Goa and schools affiliated to it. The Festival of Plants and Flowers at SFX Siolim will be held in mid-August. The Friday market at Mapusa is a weekly festival of plants during the monsoons with a whole range of plants brought from nearby villages as well as nurseries from other states. The Goa Fruit and Flower Nurseries (Regulation) Act, 1995, is applicable only to honest local nurseries. Even dishonest locals are exempted. Who asks for a bill, anyway?

Many urban dwellers also grow vegetables at home. Ornamental plants that are infested with insects move on to vegetable plants that  have grown from seed. The plant diseases spread from ornamental plants to other plants and even trees. This is a cause for concern. There is growing awareness about insects and diseases of fruit, flowering and other ornamental plants. These issues can no longer be brushed under the carpet.

Plants infested with insects or infected with diseases are brought into Goa and get sold illegally, often from nondescript pushcarts. They constitute a danger to the biodiversity of the state. The leaf curl virus has already caused havoc to papaya plants in Goa. Bunchy-top of banana is another imported disease that could well have come from a related ornamental plant. Mealy bugs and scales abound on plants brought in without even a cursory inspection by qualified personnel. It is best to buy from local vendors and ask for a bill so that there is no dispute later, irrespective of whether one had bought a Malcurada graft or seedling.

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