1,000 hectares of crop damaged by white-backed planthopper in Udupi

The attack of white-backed planthopper (Sogatella furcifera) on paddy saplings has caught farmers in Udupi district unawares.

Joint Director of Agriculture Anthony Maria Immanuel said 1,000 hectares of transplanted and directly sown paddy and 100 hectares of paddy nursery had been damaged in the attack by white-backed planthopper in the district. The large-scale damage to the paddy crop this season is being attributed to the late sowing of paddy. There was about a month’s delay in sowing. “Had this delay been avoided, the damage would not have been severe. The farmers never anticipated an attack by this pest as it was not seen in this region before,” Mr. Immanuel said.

Nearly 7,000 hectares of paddy is sown as rabi and summer crop (October, November) in the district. In contrast, for kharif (June, July), paddy is sown on about 45,000 hectares.

The increased acreage of paddy for kharif is season because of the monsoon; whereas for rabi and summer crops, farmers have to depend on canals, rivulets and other irrigation facilities. This year so far, paddy sowing is over only on 3,000 hectares of land.

Apart for the pest attack, the unexpected rain on November 27 added to the woes of the farmers. The worst affected areas in the district include Karje, Kenjoor, Kalathur-Santhekatte, Kokkarne, Hebri, Nitte, Shirlal, Ajekar, Perdoor, Bairampally, and Shivapura.

Suresh P., a farmer in Gundyadka village, said that he cultivated paddy on two acres.

Half of his crop is destroyed in the attack. “I used to get 15 quintals of paddy from my land. But I will be lucky if I get half of it this time. I have never seen such a loss in the last two decades years,” he said.

Shailaja Bhat, a farmer in Hatrabail village, said that she cultivated paddy on one acre of land. But nearly three-fourths of it is damaged due to the pest. “I used to get 12 quintals of paddy. Now it would be an achievement, even if I get three quintals,” she said.

P. Radhakrishna, a farmer, who cultivated paddy on 1.5 acres in Belapady village, said that his crop almost destroyed. “Rabi-summer crop used to yield 20 quintals for me. Now I will not get even one quintal. I have decided not to invest more on my paddy crop,” he said.

Compensation

B.V. Poojary, president of district unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangha, demanded compensation from the government to the affected paddy farmers in the district.

A team of scientists from Zonal Agricultural Research Station (ZARS), Brahmavar, and officials from the Department of Agriculture have visited the worst affected areas and informed the farmers about the measures to be taken to check the damage.

Solution

According to S.U. Patil, Associate Professor (Entomology) at ZARS, fields amid forests were most affected by the pest because of high humidity. Temperature between 22 degrees centigrade and 27 degrees centigrade was conducive for the pest. The best way to check the pest was to drain out the water on the field to reduce humidity, reduction in application of nitrogen-based fertilizers, and use of granular insecticide like (carbosulfan at 1 kg/ha or carbofuron 3G at 8 kg/ha) to safeguard natural enemies, and leaving one row free after every 15 rows of planting for easy circulation of air.

“In case of severe incidence of pest, the only alternative is to spray chemical insecticides (acephate 1 gram and dichlorovas 1 ml per litre of water). But farmers should use this measure as the last resort,” he said.

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