Incessant rain in several parts of Hassan district has watered down the hopes of potato growers. Cold weather coupled with the rain creates conditions favourable to the spread of late blight, a fungal infection. As a result, potato crop on nearly 5,000 hectares of land in the district has been affected by the disease.
Seed potato had been sown in over 21,000 ha of land in the district. “Potato cultivation demands an investment of around Rs. 50,000 a ha. Farmers have invested so much already. If they can succeed to sustain the crop for another 20 days, majority of the growers will get an average yield,” said Shakeel Ahmed, Deputy Director of the Horticulture Department. Going by the officer’s statistics, farmers in Hassan district have invested nearly Rs. 105 crore on this three-month crop. As the fungal infection is spreading fast, farmers have lost hopes of making profits and would be contented if they could get back their investment.
H.P. Mohan, progressive farmer and environmentalist, said one of the solutions to the problem would be to avoid cultivation of potato for a certain period. “Unless fungus is eliminated from the area completely, farmers can’t escape chances of their crop getting infected. The government machinery has to suggest alternative crops for farmers who have been cultivating potato every year,” he said. He also stressed the need for spreading awareness among farmers about disease-resistant varieties of potato.
In fact, potato growers were hopeful of good returns till July 15. “Farmers were expecting that a letup in the rain would halt the spread of blight. But their hopes were dashed by incessant rain. Now, farmers are left with no option but to face losses,” said R.P. Venkateshamurthy, another progressive farmer and journalist.
Mr. Shakeel Ahmed said blight was first noticed in Alur taluk last month. It spread to all taluks in the last couple of weeks. “Standing crop on nearly 5,000 ha has been affected. The impact is severe in over 1,200 ha. Farmers have to spray fungicide to safeguard their crops,” he said.
Farmers and politicians have been demanding a relief package for potato growers. H.K. Javare Gowda, former Rajya Sabha member, at a press conference here on Thursday, said the government should announce Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 20,000 as relief for an acre for potato growers.
“A delegation of farmers will be taken to Bangalore to meet the Chief Minister and submit a memorandum,” he said.