Dole Sri Lanka unit cuts costs, improves yields with manual weeding

ECONOMYNEXT – Dole Lanka, a unit of the global fresh food producer, said it has found manual weeding an effective replacement for glyphosate, a weedicide which was banned for some time, and even cut costs and improved banana yields.

With the ban on glyphosate in 2015, weed control in banana plantations became a challenge for Dole, Tharindu Haputhantri, Research, Environment & Business Development Manager of Dole Lanka (Pvt)Ltd. said.

By way of solution, a manual weeding system, a concept generated from oil palm cultivations in Central America, which had proven to be effective, has been introduced, he told a forum on biodiversity.

Dole Lanka’s herbicide-free sustainable weed management system is called the ‘Chena Project’, he told the forum held by Biodiversity Sri Lanka to mark the International Day for Biological Diversity.

With the ban of Glyphosate in 2015, weed control in banana plantations became a challengefor Dole for which by way of solution, a manual weeding system, a concept generated from oil palm cultivations in Central America, which had proven to be effective has been introduced.

Economically the company’s weeding cost has been reduced by about 10 percent, and the yields improved, a statement quoted Haputhantri as saying.

In addition, maintaining a moderate level of grass in between  rows of banana and leaving the debris in the intra-rows, has helped to reduce the pressure of pests and diseases.

“As a result product quality has improved, thereby reducing wastage of produce,” Haputhantri said.

“The project has proved that manual weeding can be made commercially viable and weed control can be done without the use of herbicides.”

Sri Lanka’s government lifted the ban on glyphosate after long periods of lobbying by private agribusiness firms, especially tea plantations.

In the Dole project, each ‘chena’, a 10 hectare block, was divided into two blocks with two workers where each worker cleans half a hectare a day.

If the total area is successfully cleaned within the given period, the two workers will earn 20 percent of their monthly salary as an incentive.

Dole found their method environmentally sustainable as no agrochemicals are involved, and because it reduces soil erosion and enhances soil biodiversity.
 (COLOMBO, 17 June, 2019)