The farmers in Jhenaidah are worried that they might not have a bumper production of T-Aman as previously expected, following detection of False Smut in the grains of BR 39 and 49 rice varieties.
Large numbers of fields on which the two varieties were planted witnessed conversion of grains into smut balls in their milk stage, just before the beginning of the harvest season.
The farmers are apprehensive that the smuts, a fungal disease characterised by the blackening of the ears of grains, might result in a significant loss of grains.
Farmer Abdul Quddus, 43, of Bhatai Bazer village under Sailkupa upazila, said he was afraid he might not be able to have more than 5-6 maunds of rice from each one-bigha land that he planted those varieties on, although he was expecting 23-25 maunds.
Quddus planted BR 39 and 49 on a total of nine bighas out of his ten bighas and expected to have over 250 maunds of rice before smuts were detected.
Another farmer of the village, Sarafat Hossain, said he too was affected by the spread of the disease.
Shahidul Islam, an agriculturist associated with an NGO called Unnayan Dhara, said excessive heat during the flowering stage of BR 39 and 49 varieties in early October might have caused the disease. “The temperature rose up to 39 degrees Celsius during that time.”
According to sources at the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Jhenaidah, the two varieties of T-Aman were cultivated on about 31,000 hectares of land out of the total of 93,415 hectares brought under T-Aman cultivation.
Deputy Director of DAE in Jhenaidah, Joynul Abedin called the development “unexpected” as, he said, the growers of BR 39 and 49 had been expecting a good harvest after a mostly favourable weather condition throughout the season.
He blamed “poor presence” of organic matters in the soil for the situation. “An agricultural land requires at least 5% organic matters in its soil, while their average presence in the soils of south-western districts is hardly 1%.”
If the authorities were informed of the development in time, they could have helped the farmers take preventive measures and stop the spread of the disease, he added.