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Study to check tree deaths

- Parkia will be endangered, says research institute

Jorhat, Dec. 11: The largescale wilting and dying of the parkia tree in Manipur and some other parts of the Northeast has prompted the Rain Forest Research Institute at Sotai here to take up a study to save the trees, which are on the way to becoming “endangered”.

The parkia pod, locally known as yongsuck, is relished as chutney and is commercially valuable for various purposes — at present being sold at Rs 10 per pod in Manipur.

The research institute, which is under the Indian Council of Forestry, Research and Education, Dehradun, is the only institute of its kind in the Northeast.

Rajib Kumar Borah, a scientist in the forest division of the institute, said the reason behind the death of the trees was yet to be known and that the tree would become an endangered one if this continued.

“We are planning to take up a project to find out why this tree is dying out so fast. It could be climate change or fungal or insect infestation,” he said.

The parkia is a large tree, growing up to a height of nearly 25 metres, with spreading branches, generally found in lowland rainforests.

It is often found along streams not only in Manipur but in Nagaland and Mizoram in the region and in Myanmar, Thailand and some other parts of Southeast Asia.

“The trees have died out in large numbers not only in Manipur but also in some parts of Dergaon where they are found. Ethno-botanically, this species is highly important. The flowers, tender pods and seeds of this plant are edible and are a good source of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals,” he added.

Apart from food, the species has a variety of uses, as medicine, insecticide, pesticide, antibacterial, allopathic, food, tanning, face wash and shampoo and firewood.

“It has been found that the seeds as well as the tender pods are known to cure stomach disorders and regulate liver function. Pods pounded in water are used to clean the face and hair. The wood can be used to make paper pulp. The losses caused by the deaths work out to nearly Rs 292 crore and we have heard that the pods are being imported in truckloads from Myanmar,” Borah said.

“Pods are formed in clusters of 10 to 15 and the plant starts production after six years. However, full bearing stage is only after 10 years. During a favourable season, a full-grown plant bears 10,000 to 15,000 pods. Thus, a single plant can yield approximately Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per annum. In the Northeast, it is considered the most costly vegetable fetching a market value of Rs 70-120/kg or Rs 10 per pod,” the scientist said.

Recently, Borah and his associates completed a three-year project to find out the reasons for the deaths of the Khasi pine in Ukhrul and Morom in Manipur and in some places in Meghalaya.

“We found that the tree was being attacked by a fungus, Fomitopsis pinicola, which can be perceived only after the tree died. Its presence could be detected during the time of its attack. We divided a cluster of trees into five groups and sprayed five different fungicides and also drenched the soil surrounding each group with the same fungicide. Only one, Bertisin, was found to be effective. We need to work more on this,” Borah said.

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