Shimla: Alleviating the apprehension of fruits’ growers of importing ‘infected plants’ under Horticulture development project, state horticulture department claimed that plant material was imported as per guidelines of Plant Quarantine Division, Ministry of Agriculture.

A spokesman of Horticulture department said that imported improved planting material was imported with the cost of Rs. 5.50 crore under Horticulture development project last year, and pre-dispatch inspection of planting material was conducted by UHF Nauni scientist, in the nurseries of M/S Vitafruit, in Italy and found it free from any pest and disease. The imported plant material was issued Phytosanitary Certificate, issued by competent authority, in Italy certifying it to be, free from the pathogens and also complied with the conditions, as defined in import permit, by Plant Quarantine Division of Government of India.

He said the plant material on arrival at Mumbai seaport on 16.4.2016 was also inspected by Assistant Director, Plant Protection of Regional Plant Quarantine Station Mumbai. He too found it free from any live infestation & any infection. The entire stock was also inspected by a team of experts from Horticulture University and Department of Horticulture on arrival at Parwanoo and prior to dispatch to Departmental nurseries for Post Entry Quantine.

These plants were kept for mandatory observation under the Designated Inspection Authority who is Prof. and Head Department of Plant Pathology, UHF Nauni for one year to monitor possible entry of any harmful pathogen with imported planting material.

As per the report of Post Entry Quarantine Agency of UHF Solan, the inspection of all plants was conducted by experts, where only five plants of variety Redlum Gala, two in number at Sarahan, one in Pangna and two at Dutt Nagar were suspected to be exhibiting symptoms of disease, caused by phytoplasma. Another cultivar, Granny Smith has been found to be carrying, the infection of apple chlorotic leaf sport virus, apple mosaic virus, apple stem pitting varus and apple stem grooving virus.

He pointed out that these viruses were already present in the State and there was a possibility of these plants got infected from local environment. It may be noted that in total 10,000 plants of Gala Radlum imported and planted in 15 different locations all over the State no virus was found except for 3 sites. It is just possible that it could be a local infection as otherwise the plants in other locations should have been manifesting such symptoms. The infected plants have been isolated for further tests to doubly confirm the report by the inspection team.

He said that the government had decided to re-inspect and draw fresh samples for tests and detection of virus by accredited laboratory. A team of scientists has been constituted to draw samples of identified plants and get them further tested from accredited laboratory, in the country. He said the government is committed to provide healthy plant material to the farmers in the State and there was no need to panic. The plant material imported is held up for Post Entry Quarantine so that quality plant material, reaches to the fruits growers.

Horticulture officer assured that fruit growers were being provided the best, improved planting material, comprising of rootstocks and grafted plants of various varieties of Apple, Pear and Cherry and added that no infested plant with any harmful pathogen, will be given to them.