The signs of late blight in potato and rust in pea, first noticed in Hoshiarpur, has forced Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to sound an alert in other districts.
It has advised farmers to listen only to its experts or the agriculture department, since private fertiliser vendors are no crop-disease specialists. The warning from the scientists has moved the Hoshiarpur horticulture department into action. Officials were at the affected farms on Saturday to assess the situation.
The late-blight virus has struck the Pukhraj variety potato plants mainly. Farmers said they had sprayed their fields with the recommended chemicals in time. “I never take any chances, and I follow the advice of the horticulture experts. This time also I had sprayed the fungicide but the disease developed because of the change in weather,” said Karamjit Singh of Mona Kalan village, who grew seed potato over 5 acres. His pea crop is also damaged to some extent.
“I am worried about the yield. The problem has cropped up in the last couple of days. Another spray (of fungicide) means more input cost,” said potato grower Resham Singh. The diseases invaded Davida Ahrana, Mehtiana, Bham, Simbli, and Phuglana villages first.
Late blight wilted the leaves and stunted plant growth. The horticulture officials who surveyed the fields said the farmers had not reported it to the PAU, since the latter had never alerted them. “We came to know of the spread from the media reports,” said deputy director Naresh Kumar, adding: “We had given the farmers only authorised, subsidised fungicides and taught them the proper spraying technique. We still have sufficient stock at Citrus Estates in Hoshiarpur and Bhunga.”
He advised farmers to be cautious or the fungi could damage the entire standing crop. “The potato crop should be sprayed with Indofil 45 or Antracol, while rust in pea can be arrested with the use of Indofil alone,” he added.
In Hoshiarpur, potato is grown in about 15,000 hectares, while pea over about 6,000 hectares. Officials said farmers were shifting to vegetable cultivation in a big way in the district. “They are reaping multiple benefits by rotating vegetable crops such as potato, pea and carrots with traditional crops of wheat and paddy,” said horticulture officer Avtar Singh Othi.
‘Weather caused it’
PAU vegetable science department head Ajmer Singh said Hoshiarpur was the worst-affected district, since late blight and rust occurred mainly when it remained cloudy for days, temperature declined, and precautions were not taken.
Ludhiana district agricultural officer (DAO) Sukhpal Singh Sekhon said weather in the PAU’s home district had been favourable for both crops, so far, but precautions were necessary. Ludhiana farmer Balraj Singh said: “Sunny days have kept late blight and rust away. If we spot signs of late blight or rust, but we will follow the DAO and PAU recommendations.”
Symptoms: Water-soaked spots appear on the margins of the leaves; turn, later, into black patches with whitish fungus growth on the lower surface, visible in the morning hours
Solution: Monitor fields regularly; in case of signs of disease, spray the crop with Indofil M-45, Antracol or Kavach (500 to 700 grams in 250 to 350 litres of water) to check further spread. Repeat the spray at weekly intervals, if required.
Symptoms: Yellow-to-dark circular spots appear on the leaves
Solution: Spray the crop with 400 grams of Indofil M-45 in 200 litres of water per acre.