Matia urges scientists to prevent blast disease of paddy, wheat

DHAKA- Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury today urged the scientists and agriculture extension workers to take necessary steps to prevent 'blast' (fungal infection) disease in wheat and paddy.

"The scientists and the extension workers would have to take necessary steps for tackling the 'blast' disease ... A new cropping pattern instead of the mono-cropping needs to be introduced," the minister said at a meeting on blast disease in the city.

About 15 per cent of the wheat cultivated on 101,660 hectors of land in eight southwestern districts was affected by blast disease in the last year, said an official release.

The agriculture minister gave the instructions while addressing as chief guest a meeting on 'The Blast Disease Management in Wheat and Rice', arranged by Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (BARC) at Farmgate.

"We need to introduce a new 'cropping pattern' instead of the existing mono-cropping or cultivating rice continuously for three times in a year on a same land for avoiding the deadly attack of 'blast' disease on wheat and rice," said the minister.

The government has already taken necessary steps as the blast attack in wheat emerged for the first time in some areas in the country during the last year and it reemerged this year too, she said.

The agriculture minister also urged the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to strengthen its research for innovating blast resistance crop varieties.

She mentioned that the CIMMYT could not discover blast resistance wheat and maize varieties in the last 31 years.

Director of Field Service Wing of the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) Chaytanna Kumar Das, Head of Entomology Division of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) Dr M Abdul Latif and Director of Wheat Research Centre Dr Naresh Chandra Dev Barma presented three articles on blast disease in the meeting.

With Agriculture Secretary Mohammad Mainuddin Abdullah in the chair, the meeting was also addressed by M Nasiruzzaman, chairman of Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC), M Golam Faruque, director general of the DAE, Dr Abul Kalam Azad, director general of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) and Dr Baghya Rani Banik, director general of BRRI, among others.

The wheat blast disease emerged in Bangladesh for the first time last year, causing a significant loss in production in seven south-western and southern districts like Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jessore, Jhenidah, Barisal and Bhola.

The average yield loss due to blast disease in an affected field was 25 to 30 percent, but in severely infected fields it reached up to 100 percent.

The total area of wheat cultivation in Bangladesh in 2016 was about 498,000 hectors.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)