The area under various citrus crops has increased from 71.8 thousand hectares (TH) in 2005-06 to 139.86 TH and the average production in region in the same period increased from 289.1 thousand tons (TT) to 737.08 TT. Yet there has been little increase in productivity during these years as the productivity increased from 4 tons per hectare (t/h) to 5.27t/h.
"Northeast is the primary source of citrus biodiversity in the country. Yet due to climate change the productivity levels are the country's lowest here. Climate change and natures vagaries have led to a severe decline in citrus orchards in region. There is a strong need to conserve all the 23 species of region," said SV Ngachan, scientist, NEH Indian Council of Agricultural Research at Umiam in Meghalaya.
He was in the city recently for the National Citrus Meet hosted by the National Research Centre for Citrus. Ngachan said that research was needed especially to protect and improve the Khasi mandarin of the region.
Talking about constraints and strategies, Ngachan pointed out that acidic soil, high humidity, and climate change are environmental constraints. But non-availability of quality planting material, farmer's mindset which does not allow them to use pesticides and adopting modern technology has added to the decline in productivity.
Production of elite disease-free planting material, development of new citrus-based integrated farming systems, sequential replanting of senile orchards through participatory approach and rejuvenation of dying orchards could prove to be good for the region.
In addition, Ngachan said that setting up processing units with pre-planned marketing strategies and proper extension can reverse the scene.