Eradication of the deadly weed parthenium has become an urgent need to save agriculture yield in the southern Tamil Nadu state, but efforts to eradicate the invasive species have not yielded desired results.
In India, the weed had apparently entered with wheat imports from United States in the 1950s. Since then, efforts have been made to contain its growth. Unfortunately, it has grown rapidly is now present virtually everywhere around the country.
Parthenium, also known as star weed, carrot weed, white cap, white top, etc. has been found growing naturally since centuries in Mexico, North and South America, Australia, China, Pacific islands, East and South Africa and Canada.
It can germinate, flower and set seeds within four weeks. Once established, it can survive even severe drought. Since 1977, it has become one of the seven most dreaded weeds
Though various state governments have been engaged in awareness programmes to eradicate the Parthenium weeds over the years, efforts gained great momentum in the state during late Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa’s reign.
Meanwhile, farmers and environmental activists remain divided on this issue. While farmers would be relieved to do away with the weed, environmentalist think the weed is actually a good way to make compost and weedicides. So, its growth needs to be simply kept under check.
Farmers agree that the weed grows much faster with maize or sorghum cultivation.
However, the flip side to its prevention is also the fact that the microorganisms used to eradicate this weed effects papaya fruits instead of destroying the weed. At present, this invasive weed has been causing enormous hardship to farmers in the districts of Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode and the Nilgiris. Farmers also believe that this weed also affects betelnut trees, banana crops, coconut trees, pulses and vegetables.
The common complaint against parthenium among farmers is that weed grows rapidly. This hinders the growth of pulses, vegetables, greens, rainfed crops, cattle feed, etc.
The second problem is that removing the weeds costs farmers dearly as workers as the weed leads to respiratory issues and dermatological allergies. Manual removal is known to lead to skin diseases and cattle ingestion has a clear possibility of aborting pregnancy.
The seeds of parthenium can spread through air easily. So, containing it is a huge challenge. However, environmentalists suggest that when we plough with the weed in its early stage (before it blossoms), it becomes natural manure. When the weed starts to grow in abundance, it is best to use it as manure; giving back the nutrients the soil has lost in a yield through its enemy itself.’