‘Wheat blast’ disease endangers the wheat production in West Bengal

Kolkata: The infiltration of terrorists smuggling  along with them arms, drugs and fake currency from Bangladesh to India has been a source of perennial concern to India. Adding to this now, ‘wheat blast’ a fungal disease has been spreading over the crops in West Bengal via Bangladesh. On account of ‘wheat blast’ the wheat crop  in West Bengal has been endangered. In order to restrict this critical situation and the further spread of ‘wheat blast’, almost 400 acres of wheat crop would have to be  destroyed in West Bengal. As a consequence, the rate of wheat production in India is expected to decline  this year.

‘Wheat blast’ disease which destroys wheat crops  was first sighted in the year 1985 in Brazil and some countries of Latin America. This disease had destroyed around 3 million hectares of cultivated wheat. ‘Wheat blast’ registered its entry for the first time in the Asian Continent, after raising its head in Bangladesh. ‘Wheat blast’ which entered Bangladesh last year and destroyed the wheat crop there seems to have entered India this year. The wheat crops in the Murshidabad and Nadia districts in West Bengal in particular have been destroyed by ‘wheat blast’.

The State’s Agriculture Minister, Purnendu Basu has informed that 800 hectares of wheat crop in eight  blocks of these two districts in West Bengal has been infested by the ‘wheat blast’. However, another official from the State’s Agricultural Department claims  that around about 1000 hectares of crop has been affected by ‘wheat blast’. It was in the last week of February, that  the wheat crop in the Jalangi region of Murshidabad was first sighted to have been  attacked by the ‘wheat blast’. In a short time after Jalangi, wheat crops from Domkal, Raninagar-1, Nawda and Hariharpara seemed to have been infected by ‘wheat blast’. In Murshidabad itself, the agricultural officials inform, that  the highest 509 hectares of cultivated wheat  land has been  ruined by ‘wheat blast’.

As wheat crops in the 500 hectares of cultivated land in the Tehatta-1 and 2 and Karimpur-1 and 2 regions of Nadia districts have been infected by ‘wheat blast’ concerns of wheat producers in this  region have been raised. Measures are being taken to prevent the spread of this disease which is currently in West Bengal, from spreading over to other states. For this, the wheat crop which is  infected by ‘wheat blast’ is being burnt, informs Basu.

While expressing concern over the spread of ‘wheat blast’ disease in West Bengal, the team from the ‘Indian Council of Agricultural Research’ (ICAR) inspected the fields here.

Last year, around 15000 hectares of crop had been destroyed by ‘wheat blast’ in Bangladesh. After the spread of this disease to Bangladesh,’ICAR’ had given a grave warning that timely and concrete measures be taken to prevent the spread of ‘wheat blast’ in India, informs Jeet Sandhu, the Deputy Director General (Crop Science) of ICAR’s Crop Science Department.

A letter in this context was sent by ‘ICAR’ to the State Government. The letter alerted the entry of ‘wheat blast’ in India through Bangladesh. In the meantime to restrict the spread of ‘wheat blast’ if the infected crops are burnt it would help to prevent the spread of this disease said Sandhu. He however made it clear that it would be necessary to keep a watch on the crops in this region for the next two or three years.

‘ICAR’ further suggested that the Central Government while discussing ‘wheat blast’ spread with Bangladesh should also dialogue on research and other issues. However, the State’s Agriculture Minister expressed a concern that the spread of ‘wheat blast’ in India has been due to West Bengal’s farmers buying seeds from Bangladesh. 

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