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Bio Control Agent To Tackle Foot Rot Disease In Basmati Rice

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BIO CONTROL AGENT TO TACKLE FOOT ROT DISEASE IN BASMATI RICE

The Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, has developed biocontrol agent Trichoderma asperellum (2% WP), (a fungus) and registered it with the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC).

The biocontrol agent will help Punjab farmers manage the deadly ‘foot rot’ or ‘bakanae’ disease that plagues the crops of Basmati rice, varieties of fragrant rice that are popular world over.

WHAT IS A BIOCONTROL AGENT?

Biocontrol agents are natural enemies of pests and can help prevent crop damage by interfering with the life cycle of insect pests. They are less toxic and more flexible than chemical pesticides.

Examples:

  • Parasites
  • Predators
  • Disease-causing fungi, bacteria, and viruses
  • Spiders
  • Files

WHAT IS FOOT ROT DISEASE?

Rice is cultivated in two stages. Seeds are first sown in a nursery bed, where they sprout and grow into seedlings, which are then transplanted into a well-puddled and prepared field. Foot rot is a fungal disease that affects Basmati rice crops particularly at the seedling stage, though it might also cause infection after transplantation in case infected seedlings are transplanted.

It is caused by the fungus Fusarium verticillioides, a soil-seed borne pathogen which spreads the infection through the root of the plant. Infected seedlings first turn pale yellow, then elongate and dry up, and eventually (usually) die.

PREVENTIVE MEASURES

To prevent the disease from occurring and spreading, farmers resort to:

  • Early seedling treatment, try & use disease-free seeds & destroy infected seedlings.
  • Timely seed nursery management is crucial — experts recommend seed sowing in the first fortnight of June, and transplantation in July.
    • Sowing in May often leads to problems as the month’s high temperatures are favourable to the disease.
  • Fields where the nursery is being set up must also be well-drained, with proper irrigation, to avoid the spread of foot rot.
  • Currently, seedlings are treated with Trichoderma harzianum before sowing and transplantation.
  • Seeds are also treated with fungicides such as Sprint 75 WS (carbendazim + mancozeb) before sowing. But these are the chemical treatments which are harmful for the soil, and can be toxic for consumers of the rice.

 

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