‘Productivity reduced by 70 percent this year’
Budgam: While people are busy harvesting the crops in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, farmers who were expecting a bumper crop this year are worried as the rice crops were badly hit with “rice blast” and “hailstorms”.
Rice blast is one of the common diseases of rice worldwide, and can be very destructive when environmental conditions are favourable. The disease is caused by the fungus Pyricularia Oryzae.
Chief Agricultural Officer (CAO) Budgam, Shabir Ahmad said that the disease has mostly affected the areas where the people have sown the decade old rice seeds which have mostly come from China.
He added that the different varieties like China 1039, K-78 and China 1007 that are mostly being cultivated in upper reaches of Budgam have suffered heavy paddy blast attack this year.
“The disease was rather unexpected as the farmers in entire district had not witnessed such a lethal attack of the disease previously,” he added.
Shabir further said that the dip in night temperature, rise in day temperature and increasing humidity were the major reasons for the blast disease in paddy fields this year.
“Most of the rice varieties are susceptible to rice blast and the disease can destroy entire yields of crops. The crippling nature of rice blast disease makes it a potentially hazardous biological weapon in agriculture,” Shabir believed.
Rice blast appears on leaves, leaf sheaths, rachis and even then glumes. On foliage, it appears as small, bluish flecks, which on younger leaves may enlarge considerably to several centimeters long. In large lesions, the central part becomes pale green or dull greenish green and the outer rim is of dark brown color.
“Once thought to be a danger only to developing nations where rice is grown as major crop, but rice blast has emerged as a growing concern to the low growing areas like Kashmir also,” he maintained.
In upper belt like Beerwah, Khag and Khansahab, there was a clear damage to the crop because they have mostly sown the saved seeds during the cultivating season and to cure the disease the department distributed free Tricyclazole to the farmers to avoid any major impact of disease on the crop.
The farmers of upper reaches of Budgam while reacting to the claims of the officials said: “We suffered plenty of loss due to blast disease in our paddy fields. We were very worried as we felt it will reduce the rice production this year.”
“They were in deep slumber and never bothered to come out of their decorated offices,” Ali Mohammad a farmer from Khag alleged.
Like Ali many affected farmers remained worried about how to overcome the losses. According to them, the concerned department “did not approach them on time” which caused nearly 40 percent damage to their crop.
Similarly, in rest of the areas where the people had sown the new hybrid seeds, the damage was negligible; CAO Shabir Ahmaed said, adding, “however, the hailstorm created massive damage to rice crops in areas like Magam, Makhama, Soibug, Garind, Budgam and Chadoora areas”.
He said that the approximate loss of productivity would be around 30 percent this year. “Last year there was bumper yield in rice fields, however, it has drastically reduced the productivity by 70 percent this year,” farmers said.
The farmers added they were in a ‘state of trauma’ and were clueless as how to overcome in future.