This boro season is expected to see a bumper harvest of the rice variety with a possibility of surpassing the Department of Agricultural Extension's (DAE) yield projection of 1.75 crore metric tons (MT).
DAE officials, however, said bacterial leaf streak (BLS) and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) infested about 26,000 to 27,000 hectares of boro fields in 32 south and south-western districts where the crop is standing on 26 lakh hectares of land.
"This is negligible. The infected fields hold less than one percent of the total production. Besides, a massive awareness campaign has already been launched to check the spread of the bacterial infections," said DAE Acting Director General Dr Shahidul Islam.
DAE officials nonetheless cautioned that the outbreak might spread if strong nor'westers with heavy rain hit the country before the harvest starts by the end of this month.
Meteorologist Ayesha Khatun said quoting from an expert committee report that two depressions might form on the Bay of Bengal this month with the possibility of one of them turning into a tornado.
The depressions might also cause 10 to 15 percent more rainfall than usual while nor'westers might pound the mid and northern part of the country for about a week.
The boro production target for this year was set at 1.75 crore MT, but the DAE is now expecting an excess yield of about 5 lakh MT, the officials said adding that growers cultivated the variety on several thousand more hectares of land than the targeted 45 lakh hectares, reported our Rajshahi correspondent.
Last year, about 1.59 crore MT of boro was harvested from 43 lakh hectares of land. Boro meets the major share of the country's 2.50 crore MT annual demand for rice, while 60 percent of the variety comes from the northern region.
Dr Shahidul Islam said to help the growers fight back the outbreak of bacterial infections, experts from Agriculture University and Bangladesh Rice Research Institute were sent to the affected areas, where they are advising the farmers to drain out water from the boro fields and to spray the crop with potash to curb the effects of excessive urea.
“The bacterial infections occurred due to excessive use of urea. This year growers used about 28 lakh metric tons of urea while 22 to 25 lakh tonnes were used in previous years," the acting DAE chief said.
Additional Director of DAE for Rajshahi Abdul Matin said the crop was cultivated on 5 percent more land than targeted. "We are expecting a 10 percent extra yield if no calamity occurs."
Hazrat Ali, a DAE training officer in Lalmonirhat, said some 52,452 hectares of land were brought under boro cultivation there, only 81 hectares of which were infected by the bacterial diseases.
Our Dinajpur correspondent reported quoting DAE officials that at least 3.35 lakh hectares of land in Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, and Joypurhat districts were brought under IRRI-boro cultivation to meet the target of yielding 13.01 lakh MT of rice.
Our Chittagong correspondent reported that boro production this year is expected to cross the target in five districts there too.
According to sources, boro was cultivated on 2,30,064 hectares of land while the target had been to plant the paddy on 2,20,600 hectares in Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Noakhali, Feni and Laxmipur.
BLB infested the crop on some 125 hectares in Laxmipur and on some 10 hectares in Mirer Sarai, which have already been brought under control, DAE officials said.
"Instant remedial measures like draining out water from the fields and spraying of fungicide already helped the affected boro fields in Laxmipur," said Additional Director Abul Kalam Azad of DAE Chittagong.
Agricultural researchers there suggest reducing the use of urea on the boro fields, and balancing the use of fertilizers by adding triple super phosphate (TSP), potash, gypsum and zinc sulphate, to save the bumper boro yield from all sorts of fungal infections.
Our Pabna correspondent reported that according to DAE officials there 76,150 hectares of land were brought under Irri-boro cultivation there this year, which is the highest amount ever.
"Two consecutive floods damaged my last year's aman crop. But now I have already cultivated 5 bighas of boro this season and expecting a bumper harvest," said Abdul Jalil, a farmer in Pabna Sadar.
Over 3 lakh MT of rice is expected to be harvested in the district while DAE set projection was 2.43 lakh MT, officials of the department said.
Other northern districts of the country's food hub will also see a bumper boro harvest, expect the DAE officials.
Our staff correspondents reported from Bogra that although 8.23 lakh hectares of land in eight districts of Rajshahi division was supposed to be planted with boro paddy according to official projections, the farmers ended up cultivating the variety on 8.47 lakh hectares.
Field level officials of Bogra DAE, however, said 1,600 hectares of boro field in Bogra were recorded as insect infested.
Our Rangpur correspondent reported that DAE offices there expect production of 2.61 lakh MT of rice from 5.03 lakh hectares of land in Rangpur, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, and Gaibandha.
Our Mymensingh correspondent reported that DAE sources said some 2,60,720 hectares of land there were brought under boro cultivation in 12 upazilas while the set target had been 2,21,150 hectares, and that they are expecting 1.3 lakh MT of yield more than the set target of 8,65,760 MT.
DAE Deputy Director Maqbul Hossain Talukder is hopeful that the outbreak of BLS will not hamper the bumper production much.
Our Netrakona correspondent reported that farmers of the district cultivated boro on an area larger than the official target.
According to the DAE in Netrakona, a total of 1,66,135 hectares of land in 10 upazilas there were brought under boro cultivation exceeding the target of 1,44,600 hectares.
Deputy Director of DAE in Netrakona RIM Aminul Islam Siddiki said they are advising farmers to use fertilizers in a balanced manner, and already set up DAE block based fertilizer sales centres to ensure smooth supply.
Besides, distribution of quality seeds, fertilizers and other agri-inputs have also been going on under post flood agri-rehabilitation programmes to help flood affected small and marginal farmers cultivate boro crop.