ANANTAPUR: Even as there is all-round condemnation for felling thousands of big neem trees for the four-lane road on the National Highways, a fresh crisis looms in the form of dieback disease that is sounding the death-knell of the existing trees.
The situation is severe in Anantapur and Kurnool districts as dieback is causing bacteria that affect the apical and in turn the main stem. This will result in poor quality timber in the future.
A national survey was undertaken on the impact of dieback on neem trees in different agro climatic regions in various parts of South India, including Anantapur and Kurnool districts.
Neem has multiple uses besides great medicinal values and is used widely in Ayurveda.
Traditionally, the tree is worshipped in different forms including as village goddess –Maramma. Twigs of Azadirachta indica (Neem) infected with dieback were collected from different regions of Gooty, Guntakal, Maddikera and Patthikonda and they were further analysed to determine the extent of pathogen.
“Phomopsis Azadirachtae, the causal organism was isolated on malt extract agar from dieback infected neem twigs. They were identified by conventional and molecular methods”, Dr. Suresh, Praja Science Vedika state president observed and added that phomopsis genus specific primers (5.8S r-DNA) were then used for detection of P. azadirachtae, the causative agent of dieback polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Studies revealed the amplification of expected 141 bp DNA in P. azadirachtae isolated from the diseased trees of different regions of Anantapur and Kurnool indicating the causal organism of dieback disease on neem.
Suresh stressed the need to protect the existing neem trees for securing the future generations.
“There was no alternative growth of saplings of neem trees cut during road formations and the forest department failed to mount pressure on NHAI”, he observed.
Environmental experts say that species of all age and size may suffer from this problem. Neem is an evergreen deciduous tree that is known to solve global environmental problems but is itself not free from microbial diseases.
A voluntary community effort has started in Bengaluru to save and protect neem trees from the deadly dieback disease.
Neem is considered a miracle species, which can alleviate major global problems like pollution, deforestation, soil erosion and rising temperatures.