Saturday, November 25, 2017

Deadly fungi threatens wheat crop on India-Bangladesh border

  • News Desk,
    Published: 2017-03-05 10:59:58 BdST

A farmer sprays pesticide in his wheat field. Reuters

Are farmers along the India-Bangladesh border in West Bengal importing the dreaded Magnaporthe Oryzae fungi?

A report in 'Times of India' says this threatens to wipe out wheat cultivation in India after possibly sneaking into the country in a consignment imported from Brazil.

The report said that for the second year running, farmers in Nadia, bordering Bangladesh, are being forced to destroy standing crops suspected to have been affected by 'wheat blast' that is caused by the fungus.

In 2016, crops on 15,000 hectares in Bangladesh were burnt down after the fungus was detected, the TOI report said.

Now, efforts are on to destroy wheat crop on nearly 400 hectares in Tehatta sub division and Chapra block of Nadia.

Farmers have been offered compensation at Rs 50,375 per hectare.

Should the fungus spread to other parts of the country, India would face a severe wheat crisis.

Since this area is close to Bangladesh it might impact on its wheat crop as well.

"At the moment, we aren't calling it wheat blast. The symptoms are similar. We won't hesitate to stop the cultivation of wheat in the bordering areas of Bangladesh if the laboratory tests reveal that it is wheat blast," said R K Gupta of Directorate of Wheat Research under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

Our teams have been visiting the area for the last few months. We are also trying to find out if the fungus did come in from Brazil. We have an exchange programme with the country."

Apurba Kumar Chowdhury, professor of plant pathology, Uttar Banga Krishi Viswavidyalaya, said: "Though the symptoms are similar, the Centre doesn't want to call it wheat blast as yet. Such fungi require proper containment. The only facility in India where this is available is the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Researchin New Delhi."