The Punjab farmers are facing a threat from a silent killer of the crops. The weed,parthenium – commonly known as congress grass – can affect the crop yield,bringing it down by about 40 per cent.
The grass,which grows in abundance during rainy season also causes allergies,itching,coughing and shortness of breath.
To tackle the abundant growth of parthenium,the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU),Ludhiana,has had issued a letter to all the district heads to launch an awareness campaign to root it out from the state. As per a survey,parthenium grows in more than 35 lakh hectares in the country.
In Punjab,it has made vacant plots,neglected green belts of the city areas,railway tracks,and even agricultural fields its home.
Deputy director,Agriculture Technology Management Agency (ATMA),Naresh Gulati confirmed receiving the PAU letter and added that it has been forwarded to the agriculture department. The block level officers and village panchayats have been told to launch campaigns to weed out parthenium.
The seeds of parthenium have a long storage life and can grow quickly once it finds suitable weather conditions, he added.
Experts said that on an average each parthenium plant produces 5000-10,000 seeds,which are viable even at an immature stage. In summer,parthenium appears in a rosette form. During rainy season it grows up to 90 cm in height,with profuse flowering and green foliage. It flowers throughout the year and is even harmful to the animals.
Gulati said the best solution to kill the weed was to root it out by hand and then burn it. Chemicals can be used to control the weeds growth but its not cost effective,he added.
Dr Sanjiv Sharma,former IMA President and a leading specialist in allergies,said that parthenium can cause various allergies as its flower leads to respiratory problems. Its pollen travels through air and can cause skin and nasal allergy and bronchitis. Around 30 per cent of the people of Punjab and adjacent state Himachal Pradesh (HP) are suffering from allergies caused by parthenium, Sharma added.
As per the experts parthenium arrived in India with imported wheat in the mid-1950 and has been termed one of worlds seven most devastating and hazardous weeds.