Yellow rust threatens wheat crops, govt sounds alert

  • Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, Shimla
  • Updated: Mar 01, 2015 18:57 IST

Even as rain continues to lash lower and mid altitude areas of the state, the appearance of yellow rust on wheat plants has created anxiety among farmers who fear if it is not contained they might lose their crops which would again plunge the state’s agricultural economy into stagnation. The disease, which has been a cause of concern for the past five years, has appeared in farmlands in Una, Mandi, Kang

ra, and Bilaspur districts. However, the state agriculture department said area affected was small and the damage to crops so far has not been significant.

“The disease has been noticed in small patches in low lying farmlands of the state. The department has published about 200,000 cards containing relevant information about the yellow rust fungal disease. It has also set up teams to monitor the spread of the disease,” the department’s director JC Rana said.

Wheat is sown in both middle and low attitude areas with a total of 358,000 hectares under cultivation. In the wake of the yellow rust outbreak the department has put its field staff on alert while farmers are being advised to step up vigil as the prevailing climatic conditions were conducive for the disease to spread.

The department has advised the farmers to spray recommended fungicides for controlling yellow rust and has set up diagnostic teams in coordination s with agriculture university scientists to examine wheat crops with signs of yellowing. The department attributes the yellowing of crops to the heavy rain this winter.

“In many places it was noticed that waterlogging had resulted in the yellowing of crops. Weekly reports are also being sent to the agriculture ministry,” Rana added.

For last five years the agriculture department has been discouraging the farmers from sowing the varieties which have been found more susceptible to yellow rust , which included PBW 433, PBW 373, PBW 396, PBW 550, HS 240, HS 277, HS 295 and Raj 3765. The farmers are being advised to sow disease resistant wheat varieties like the DPW 621, VL 892, VL 829, VL 907, HPW 147, HPW 211, HPW 147, HPW 211, HPW 349, HPW 360, HPW 155 and HD 2967.

What is yellow rust?

Yellow rust, a fungal disease that manifests as powdery yellow stripes on plants, has started spreading due to unfavorable weather conditions, especially heavy rain and snowfall in the region due to western disturbances. These stripes hinder photosynthesis, make the grains shrivel and stunt growth of the plant. It is a serious disease, which has been threatening wheat cultivation in the country the past few years. The disease spreads with the wind and began appearing in the present race (taxonomic group that is a division of a species) in 2001 because farmers in wheat growing states were not replacing their wheat varieties on a regular basis. When wheat varieties are grown in larger areas they become prone to the disease, which is why it is recommended seeds of wheat varieties should be replaced every three years.

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