‘Mango Death Syndrome’ affects crops: Will Pakistani be deprived of sweet mangoes?

This summer, Pakistanis will continue to search for delightfully yellow sweet Sindhri mangoes (king of mango fruit), but to no avail.

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The disease affects 30% of mango crops in Pakistan.

Pakistani mangoes dominate the world in terms of taste and demand as they are sweet and rich in fiber and vitamins. However, it seems like this summer, the taste of ripe Pakistani mangoes may not be as sweet as in previous seasons. This summer, Pakistanis will continue to search for delightfully yellow sweet Sindhri mangoes (king of mango fruit), but to no avail.

Why will Pakistani be deprived of Sweet Mangoes?

Mangoes are under threat in Sindh by the fast-spreading mango death syndrome. This syndrome consists of different diseases, one of the deadliest diseases being the sudden death disease. Mir Zafarullah Talpur, a landlord who owns a mango orchard in Tando Jan Muhammad near Mirpurkhas, explains:

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 twigs to save the rest of the tree. My orchard, spread across 60 acres of land, has been infected by this disease to such a vast extent.

Pakistani mangoes are suddenly dying – here’s why.

Explanation of the Sudden Death of Mangoes

According to the landlord, the “strange” phenomenon is a result of climate change. Explaining that there is no remedy to this predicament, Talpur said:

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. Growers also need to be more careful as the mango death syndrome can quickly spread from one farm or orchard to another.

Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Hyderabad, Tando Jam, and Tando Allahyar are among the leading mango-producing areas in lower Sindh. According to growers, the syndrome has already affected 20 to 30 percent of mango orchards in the province. The rapid spread of the sudden death disease has caused panic among the mango growers.

Mohammad Umar Bughio, a mango grower who owns an orchard spread across 100 acres of land and grows Sindhri mangoes to exports to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iran, stated:

Around 20 to 25 percent of my crop has been damaged. And no one has bothered to conduct research and come up with a remedy.

According to Bughio, mango growers in Sindh face a similar situation every year, but the problem is more serious this year. Connecting the disease to the rise in the temperature during February this year, Bughio said:

We have never seen the temperature rise from 35 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius in February. I believe the hot weather has badly affected the mango flower, called borr, in Sindhi. Water shortage is another cause of declining mango production and increasing disease outbreaks. If it continues like this, mango production in Sindh will decline.

Kachelo Fruit Farms chief executive officer Faisal Kachelo also said:

Mango orchards being plagued by diseases is nothing new, but the damage has been caused greatly this year.

Unlike Bughio, he said:

Research on different types of diseases affecting mango orchards is underway, and I am hopeful that a solution to the problem would soon be found. The mango death syndrome consists of various decaying diseases, i.e., dieback, quick dieback, and sudden death. The disorders are classified on the pace of their effect on the plant – slow, gradual, and sudden.

Pakistan is the second-largest exporter of mangoes.

Mango Cultivation in Pakistan

According to official statistics, Pakistan is the fourth-largest producer of mango in the world. Zafarullah Talpur, an office-bearer of the Sindh Abadgar Board, stated:

In Pakistan, Sindh is the second-largest producer of mangoes, Punjab being the largest. The total production of mangoes in Pakistan is 1.6 million tonnes to 1.8m tonnes a year, and 600,000 to 700,000 tonnes of this produce, approximately 40 percent, is cultivated in Sindh.

Tehmina Mangan, a professor at Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam, in her research on mango production, said that the area under mango acreage has increased monotonically over time, but fruit production has not.

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