In first such instance this rabi season, the farm scientists have spotted stripe rust commonly known as yellow rust, a fungal disease, in wheat crops in Kangra and Hamirpur districts in the hill state.
In a recent survey and surveillance tour, a team of scientists from Himachal Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Agriculture University (HPAU) spotted the disease at Baba Panja area of Dehra block in Kangra district.
The scientists have also recorded yellow rust at Jol Sappar in Naduan block and Jimmi in Bamsan block of Hamirpur district.
However, scientists said these were isolated cases and it was not alarming at this stage.
“Yellow rust was observed in fields in Dehra on January 24 where farmers had sown Raj-3765, a wheat variety that is susceptible to the fungal disease,” Dr SK Rana, senior plant pathologist at Wheat and Rice Research Station of HPAU, said.
Rana said that the disease was also observed in trails up to 20% severity in some parts of Hamirpur district where farmers had grown some traditional varieties which are susceptible to the disease.
Yellow rust is a fungal disease that attacks leaves of the wheat plant and forms yellow stripes and it affects the photosynthesis process, which, in turn, leads to withering of grain size.
“Prevailing climatic conditions, low temperatures and high humidity due to intermittent rains, are highly congenial to infection, development and spread of yellow rust on susceptible varieties in the state,” Dr Rana said.
Rana advised the farmers to be on alert and regularly inspect their wheat fields for the appearance of symptoms of the disease.
“If a plant is infested with yellow rust, it stains hands when rubbed against it. If not controlled in time, it could spread to other areas and cause a huge damage in the wheat-growing belt,” Dr Rana said.
Maintaining that it was important to control the disease at the initial stage, Dr Rana said if farmers observed the appearance of fungal disease the crops should immediately be sprayed with propiconazole (tilt or shine) 25 EC or tebuconazole (folicur) 250 EC or triadimefon (bayleton) 25 WP by dissolving 30 ml of fungicide in 30 litre water per kanal of land.
“The farmers are advised to give second spray after 15-20 days as per need,” Dr Rana said.
The fungal disease had severely hit the wheat crop in Himachal in 2011 and 2012 with losses running into crores.
A few days ago, the HPAU scientists had issued advisory to farmers to stay alert for spread of the disease after it was spotted in neighbouring Punjab and Haryana.