Rice blast fungus, also known as Magnaporthe grisea, is putting Boro crops planted in farmlands of Gazipur and wetlands of Sunamganj at serious risk, raising concerns among the farmers.
According to Rice Knowledge Bank, Rice blast is one of the most destructive diseases of rice. A leaf blast infection can kill seedlings or plants up to the tillering stage.
Initial symptoms appear as white to gray-green lesions or spots, with dark green borders. Older lesions on the leaves are elliptical or spindle-shaped and whitish to gray centers with red to brownish or necrotic border.
At later growth stages, a severe leaf blast infection reduces leaf area for grain fill, reducing grain yield.
The fungal infection can affect all above ground parts of a rice plant- leaf, collar, node, neck, parts of panicle, and sometimes leaf sheath.
In Sreepur Upazila of Gazipur, a local farmer named Abdul Hamid, whose crops have been severely affected by the disease, told the reporter: “After witnessing the symptoms, I applied fungicides to my Boro crops following recommendations from the local agriculture office.
“But, I could not save my crops.”
The crops of many farmers in this area have been ruined by this fungal infection.
Altaf Mahmud, another local farmer, said: “I managed to harvest around 60 mounds of paddy per acre of farmland last year. But I will not be able to harvest even 6 mounds of paddy this year.”
“The production cost of rice per acre is Tk33,000. However, my entire crop has been destroyed,” said farmer Sahaj Uddin Morol.
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Blast has already infected huge swaths of farmlands in Gazipur district | Raihanul Islam Akand/ Dhaka Tribune
Deputy Assistant Agriculture Officer Abu Sayeed of Sreepur Upazila, said that Boro crops were planted in 12,190 hectors of farmland this year. He also believes that the crop harvesting target would be achieved despite the pandemic of the fungal infection.
Blaming the farmers, Sayeed said: “They [farmers] do not spray fungicides as per protocol. The infection could start if the soil contains too much nitrogen.”
He added that fungicides such as Nativo, Dimention and Filia should be used to counter the infection.
Dire situation in Sunamganj
The blast pandemic has seriously affected the Boro crops in the wetlands of Sunamganj. The disease has particularly affected Aungaruli area of Bishambharpur upazila, Matian area of Tahirpur upazila and several wetlands of Dharamapasha Upazila.
Rice blast has spread across the Aungaruli wetlands. Local farmers told the reporter that they have never seen such intensity of the infection in the history of the country.
According to district Department of Agricultural Extension, around 200 hectors of farmland is currently affected by blast. However, farmers claimed that the infection has already spread to 1,000 hectors of Boro farmland.
The use of fungicides has been mostly ineffective in the region.
Addressing the issue, Balijuri Union UP member Abdul Wahid, said: “The disease is spreading from one farmland to another, ruining the crops in a large area.”
Fatehpur Union Parishad Chairman Ranjit Chowdhury Rajon said that of the 500 hectors of farmland in Aungaruli wetlands, 300 hectors have been infected by blast.
Commenting on the matter, Bishambharpur upazila Assistant Agricultural Extension Officer Md Abdul Kuddus said: “We have inspected the farmlands in the area and found evidence of blast infection. We are providing the farmers with advice on how to deal with the disease.
“Fungicides work well against rice blast. However, if someone used fungicides on their farmland, but his neighbour does not, the infection will keep spreading. This could lead to a pandemic.”
Department of Agricultural Extension has launched an awareness campaign to save the remaining Boro crops from blast infection.
This year, Boro crops were planted in 222,000 hectors of farmland in the Sunamganj district.