Agriculture scientists have cautioned against the widespread infection of the yellow rust infection in the wheat fields of Haryana and Punjab.
Indu Sharma, director of the Karnal-based Directorate of Wheat Research (DWR), said on Wednesday that field reports about yellow rust were pouring in from the two wheat-growing states, and if timely action was not taken, the situation could end into a major loss of the food grain.
She said that the next 15-20 days were "very crucial", and urged the wheat growers to be extra vigilant in detecting and initiating timely preventive measures.
"Nearly 2.5 million hectare land in Haryana and 3.5 million hectare in Punjab is under wheat cultivation. The fungal disease of yellow rust is a major threat as it attacks leaves of the crop and forms yellow stripes, affecting its photosynthesis process, which, in turn, leads to withering of the grain size."
Sharma said that the disease could cause up to 80% damage of food grains if preventive steps were not taken by farmers.
"Fields where varieties recommended susceptible to yellow rust are sown are found infected in the region," said the director.
"The present climatic conditions of low temperature and foggy weather help in causing fungal infection to the crop. If rains hit the region, the weather would be most congenial for spread of the disease," said the director of the institute, an important constituent of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the nodal agency for wheat research activities in the country.
This rabi reasons, the first case of confirmed spotting of yellow rust in north India was from Ratangarh village in Yamunanagar.
Last year too, the disease had hit Yamunanagar district, and crop in nearly 1,000 acres was damaged by yellow rust.
Meanwhile, Sharma said that about 7-8 villages in Yamunanagar and four in Karnal had reported cases of fungal disease.
"Similarly, confirmed cases were reported in Hoshiarpur and Ropar districts of Punjab," she said.
"Farmers should regularly visit the fields and keep a tab on any suspicious development in the crop. If a plant is infested with yellow rust, it stains hands when rubbed against it," she said.
Meanwhile, DWR principal investigator (crop protection) MS Saharan, who is on the field inspection in Haryana and Punjab, told HT that the condition was "not alarming".
"These are isolated cases, and can be controlled effectively. Farmers need not panic and should resort to spray fungicides only if wheat plats are found to be infected," said Saharan.