The Basmati crop in Punjab is under threat from rice hispa — a pest that eats the leaves of the plant, exposing its epidermis as a broad white mark. It has been noticed in over a dozen villages in Gurdaspur and Amritsar.
The pest thrives in flooded fields. The monsoon and lack of efficient drainage has contributed to this.
The state agriculture department has issued an advisory to farmers of the basmati crop to keep a close eye on their plants.
Dr Amrik Singh, agriculture development officer at Gurdaspur, said that at least 100 acres has been affected.
“Infestation varies from six to 65 per cent in the fields,” he said.
“Farmers in the state have been mindlessly applying fertilzers to their crops. This has affected the ecosystem in which the crops grow and has kept the rice hispa’s natural predators away,” said Dr Naresh Gulati, an agriculture development official.
An adult rice hispa looks like a small bluish-black beetle that has many short spines on its body.
Its larvae is legless creamy white which is concealed inside the leaf tissue.
“If the attack is in the nursery of the crop, the affected leaves should be cut off before the seedling is transplanted. On transplanted crops, farmers must spray 120 ml methyl parathion 50 EC or 560 ml monocrotophos 36 SL or 800 ml Ekalux 25 EC or one litre chloropyriphos in 100 liter of water,” said Dr Singh.
Farmer Piara Singh, numberdar of Magrala village, said the rain water hasn’t drained from the fields.
This year, around 7 lakh hectares is under Basmati cultivation in the state.