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Infections rot Tk250 crore's-worth of watermelon in Noakhali

  • Published at 03:57 pm March 19th, 2019
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Bacterial and fungal infections made watermelon plants turn yellow in Noakhali Dhaka Tribune

The infection is turning the watermelon plants yellow

Bacterial and fungal infections have damaged and affected at least 22,857 acres of watermelons in Nokahlai's Subarnachar upazila.

According to the Department of Agricultural Extension, about 70% of all watermelon production in the upazila has been affected; infected by bacteria and fungus at an estimated loss of Tk100 crore.

Last year, 10,860 acres of land was used for watermelon cultivation in Noakhali district; of which 10,501 acres were in Subarnachar and earned about Tk120 crore.

This year, watermelon production in the district had grown to more than double— 22,857 acres to be exact—as the Department of Agricultural Extension estimated trades up to Tk250 crore from this fruit.

As a result of the bacterial infection, local farmers are not to get expected yields and are on the verge of suffering a great financial loss. This has struck fear of bankruptcy among the local farmers.

Due to sudden rain in the first week of March, most of the watermelon crop fields were waterlogged. The fields became a breeding ground for fungal and bacterial organisms, which then sprouted the roots of the watermelon plants and turned them yellow; a sign of infection.

Acknowledging the state of affairs, agriculture experts have suggested the farmers not panic as climate change is responsible for the current bacterial and fungal breakout. The experts have advised the farmers to use proper scientific ways to yield with more developed seeds that can withstand adverse weather conditions.

Expressing his fear and concern, Nur Alam Manju Mia, a local farmer, told the Dhaka Tribune: "I have been cultivating watermelons for the last six years. Every year there has been a good yield. This year I used nine acres of land to cultivate watermelon. 

"If things had gone right, I could have sold Tk8 lakh's-worth of watermelon, made a hefty profit, and cleared all my debts. But, things are not looking promising now as most of trees and fruits have been affected by bacteria and fungus. I took a loan of Tk1.5 lakh from a local NGO. I do not think I can pay it off."

When our correspondent visited the Khasherhat Bazar of the Subarnachar upazila he saw two teenagers trying to sell infected watermelons.

One of duo, Mizan, said: "We have to pay off our debts. Our father had to take loans to cultivate watermelon. All our watermelon plants, along with fruits, are becoming infected. The fruit rots first and then the tree itself dies. We are very worried about our current state."

When contacted, agricultural expert Shivbrata Bhowmik, who works at the agriculture department of a local NGO of the upazila, said: "The bacterial attacks  started this year. This happens when a farmer cultivates a particular crop on the same piece of land over and over again.

"Not using developed seeds and proper scientific ways to yield crops acts as a catalyst for such bacterial and fungus related infections."

"However, the farmers should not panic and lose hope. If they follow up-to-date procedures for cultivating with more advanced seeds, things will be better and they will again get a good yield. 

"If the necessary steps are not followed and the advice is not followed, with the drastic and adverse affects of climate change, things will become much worse," he added. 

Scientific Officer of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, Noakhali, Md Amir Faisal said:"We have visited several of the affected crop fields. We have notified our seniors about the proceedings. We are trying find a way to put an end to this. Farmer are being advised accordingly."