Apart from lack of rains if there is one thing that affect farmers it is the noxious flowering weed called parthenium. It is also called congress weed and it’s botanical name is Parthenium Hysterophorus.
Parthenium plant did not exist in India before 50 years and my mother in law said that when she was younger she has not seen the parthenium plant at all. Parthenium was accidentally introduced in India and it has now spread all over India causing havoc to both plants and humans.
As farmers we suffer a lot because of this plant. We spend huge amounts of money to weed out the plant from the farm and usually farm workers manually do the job of removing the plant.
But now since the cost of using manual labor is increasing, farmers are resorting to chemicals for killing the plant. This leads to soil poisoning. We can’t blame the farmers because no farmer will want to spoil the soil.
We do it because we have no choice. We have never used chemicals for removing the parthenium plant in our farm but it is getting difficult day by day.
Parthenium Hysterophorus Plant Description:
Parthenium Hysterophorus is a small plant that grows about 4 to 5 feet. It produces numerous very small button like white flowers. Parthenium is not like ordinary weed, it spreads very rapidly, by the time the workers reach the end of the farm after removing the weed, new ones will start sprouting at the start.
Each plant produces around 25000 seeds! that is why it is spreading rapidly all over India. Now after years of living in a farm, I realize that the most of the so called weeds are actually herbs except for parthenium. I would have never written this post if only money was the issue, the problem is parthenium causes a lot of health problems.
If you ever suffered from allergies and don’t know the reason, make sure to check for parthenium around the place. Both direct and indirect contact with parthenium causes severe allergies in some people and pollen inhalation causes asthma. Even workers who are weeding suffer a lot because of this plant as it causes itching.
I have noticed that during severe drought, cows and goats will even eat neem leaves (I have seen them do so) but very very rarely parthenium. If they do, the milk causes severe allergy. Though measures are taken to eradicate the plant, I think it will take quite some time as it spreads so easily.
3 Worst Aspects of Parthenium Hysterophorus
1. Parthenium Allergy and Skin Dermatitis
Parthenium allergy is getting common day by day as parthenium is spreading rapidly. Parthenium allergy varies from person to person, some may not be allergic at all whereas some might get worse allergies. The allergies can range from skin discoloration, thickening of the skin to lesions on the skin.
Even I get a mild form of skin allergy when I touch parthenium. My hands starts itching very badly and nowadays I make it a point not to touch the plant at all. As a person who is living in a place where I have to deal with parthenium everyday, there are very few things that I can do to escape form this deadly plant.
We try our best to weed out the plant from the farm and if you are removing the plant make sure to do it before it starts flowering and releasing the seeds. Once it starts flowering, it will be next to impossible to remove the plant. If you are planning to remove the plant from the garden, always wear gloves.
Actually I got really scared when I saw the effect of full blown parthenium allergy, the face becomes black, the skin thickens, starts developing rashes and it really is quite serious. Till there is a permanent solution found for removing parthenium permanently, the best thing to do is remove the plant manually before it starts flowering.
2. Parthenium and Asthma:
Anyone who is suffering from asthma will experience the condition worsen when they inhale the pollen during the flowering stage. Even normal people who don’t suffer from asthma, if they suddenly suffer from breathlessness accompanied by skin rashes, it is better to check for parthenium allergy.
It can affect children too, in fact it affects them even worse. It is much more prevalent during the dry season when the seeds crumble and get dispersed in air. If you are prone to parthenium dermatitis there are a few things that we can do at home. Bathe twice everyday and try to stay away from the area where parthenium is found as much as possible.
You can also apply a thin layer of oil or cream on the skin everyday to form a protective barrier. If you have a garden, try to remove the plant once it starts sprouting to prevent the seeds from falling on the ground.
3. Parthenium and Farming:
As I mentioned before, parthenium is one of the biggest problem for farmers. The main problem is pathenium grows well in all types of soil and now it is adapting to all types of climate too. Before few years, you can never see parthenium in hill stations, now you can find parthenium in hill stations too, it also grows well in cities and towns.
Add to the already existing pollution in cities the pollen aggravates allergy conditions even more. It also reduces the production of crops, it reduces the production of crops from 40 % to 90% of yearly production. It also the reduces the grazing area of livestock.
My husband And I usually joke that during the first onset of rains the first thing that pops out of the ground is parthenium and even during drought that is the last thing to die. When live stock consume it more than 10 % of their diet it can cause dermatitis in them too and severe poisoning.
If we consume that milk of the livestock that has grazed on parthenium, we also get allergies and stomach orders. I am talking about allergies caused in adults, just imagine children consuming that milk. I hope in the near future that an effective environmental friendly solution is found to eradicate the plant once and for all…..