Just when things appeared to be moving smoothly for paddy farmers in Kuttanad who had ventured onto their fields for the second round of cultivation, a rarely seen weed and common bacteria have joined hands to present a new headache.
The season, which saw around 9,000 hectares being readied for the second round of cultivation and where harvest is just round the corner, first saw bacterial leaf blight in many of the padasekharams. Yellow to orange discolouration starting from the tip and progressing downwards along the sides of the leaves and subsequent drying were commonly reported, though fields in Ambalapuzha North complained of a slightly higher occurrence. Fields in Kainakary and Nedumudi too were on the sick list initially, but the threat there has subsided after authorities took up chemical spraying and other remedial measures.
However, even as the bacterial leaf blight was coming down, reports of a rarely seen weed in these parts of the State are cropping up fast. The situation, termed filed rice infestation (karinellu in Malayalam) by the Centre for Pest Management (CPM), Mankombu, has been reported from mostly from Kainakary, where almost every padasekharam has been infested with the weed, according to CPM officials.
An effective control measure is yet to be worked out, and farmers are finding their expenses spiraling after engaging labour to weed out the menace. CPM officials have collected samples and submitted a detailed report to the Government, in which they have mentioned that farmers might have to be paid damage costs since weeding expenses dented their budgets.
“The weed could have sprung up because the same farm beds were being used for both the ‘puncha’ round of cultivation and the second round of cultivation. There could have been no time to prepare the bed adequately before the second round, thus enabling the weed to spread fast,” an official said.
Though the weed has been noticed in a few places in previous years, such “intensive infestation” is a first in Kuttanad, the official said.
In early September, there was an occurrence of insect pests like brown and white plant hoppers since the prevailing weather conditions were favourable for them. But the issue was tackled.