Sunday, 30 July 2006

A new fungal pest is causing havoc in agricultural fields in Warangal

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, July 30: A new fungal pest is causing havoc in agricultural fields in Warangal and other cotton growing districts upsetting the economy of farmers.
The root rot disease, which was rarely noticed earlier in the State, has now affected 40 per cent of Bt cotton, tomato and chilli crops in Warangal district alone. Agriculture scientists attribute to the spread of root rot to the favourable conditions provided by Bt cotton crop.
"The fungus has been lying low for long. With the introduction of the Bt cotton in the State, the fungus got a boost and is spreading fast. The Bt cotton is susceptible to the root rot. From Bt cotton, the root rot disease has spread to crops like tomato and chilli," says senior farm scientist Dr Abdul Qayyum.
The fungus spreads fast from one crop to another as it easily gets attached to agricultural implements like ploughs. When a plough used in an infested field is used in a healthy field, the latter too gets infected.
"There have been instances of farmers burning the whole crop to prevent the spread of the root rot disease to neighbouring fields. Now that the root rot has spread to tomato and chilli, there's every likelihood of it spreading to horticultural crops and vegetable fields too," points out agriculture scientist Kiran Sakkhari.
The fungus is capable of eating away roots damaging the root system. Only the tap root is left in tact while the branches and capillaries are eaten away. This leaves the plant incapable of sucking water from the ground and it drops dead.
In Nalgonda district farmers removed crop spread over 500 acres after the root rot disease hit the Bt cotton plants.

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