Many of the farmers who incurred losses last harvest season due to low prices of coarse rice, had opted for growing fine variety of rice this season. But cases of rice blast disease in the fine variety in many areas of Dinajpur and other northern districts are leaving them worried about further losses.
With only a few weeks left for harvesting the paddy, the fine variety of rice plants, especially BR-34 (Jira Katari), on hectares of land have been detected with rice blast, one of the most severe diseases of rice caused by fungus.
Till date, infection of rice blast has been detected in Chirirbandar, Phulbari and Biral upazilas of Dinajpur and in Raninagar upazila of Naogaon.
Blast is considered a major disease of rice because of its wide distribution and extent of destruction under favourable conditions, according to International Rice Research Institute.
Severe infection of the disease may result in reduction of grain yield, said experts at Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE).
Many farmers in the affected areas said they were not getting expected cure for the disease despite applying pesticide doses as prescribed by the DAE.
With targeted harvest of 7 lakh tonnes of rice in Dinajpur this year, BR-34 was cultivated on 1.06 lakh hectares out of total 2.60 lakh hectares of land that were brought under Aman cultivation, according to DAE.
DAE officials said although they discouraged farmers in cultivating the BR-34 variety for its susceptibility to infectious diseases, many did not pay heed with the excuse that they suffered losses last harvest season for cultivating coarse varieties, including BR-28 and BR-29.
Rice farmer Mamtaz Ali from Daroil village of Biral upazila in Dinajpur said last week he detected blast infection in around 20 percent of the BR-34 that he cultivated on four acres of land.
“I suffered losses last season when I cultivated coarse variety (Boro) of rice. And that’s why I chose to cultivate fine rice variety this season.”
Another farmer, Sushil Chandra Roy from the same village, said he also planted Jira Katari on four acres of land for better price. “But the blast disease, that infected 30 percent of the crop, has diminished my hopes.”
While speaking with this correspondent, Touhidul Iqbal, DAE deputy director in Dinajpur, however said the cases of blast disease will not affect the total targeted harvest this season in the district as rice fields in only a small area have been infected and 25 percent of paddy has already been harvested.
He also said there is no possibility of further infection.
In Raninagar upazila of Naogaon, farmer Idris Ali from Khatteshwar village said blast disease has infected almost half of his fine rice on three acres of land. “I applied pesticide as prescribed by DAE, but no result.”
Shahidul Islam, DAE official in the upazila, said the blast disease will not affect rice production in the upazila because only a small area, 18,000 hectares, has been affected by it.