Late blight hits potato farmers in Bjabchho and Chapcha

With late blight infesting potato tubers, farmers in Bjabchho and Chapcha gewogs in Chukha may not be able to harvest potato like they did last year.

Potato is the main cash crop in the two gewogs and farmers earn millions every year.

There are about 200 households in Bjabchho gewog.

Bjabchho gup, Peljor Dorji, said that almost all the households are affected.

Tsimakha tshogpa Cheku Dorji said that potato fields in all five villages have been affected. “It started early in March and it is affecting the growth of the crop.”

He said the potato growers are worried since most of them took loans.

A villager from Bjabchho, Karma Yeshi, said he cultivated potatoes in six acres of land. “All are affected,” he said.

He said only a few people have good potato plants in the fields. “For most, the potatoes are as small as  marbles.”

Chapcha gup, Tobgay, said the disease is spreading towards Chapcha. “Three out of six chiwogs have been affected severely,” he said. “Farmers are really worried as potato is the main cash crop.”

The gup said Chapcha, Lobneykha, and Bunakha are the most affected. “But it is now spreading towards Shemagangkha.”

Chukha dzongkhag agriculture officer, Sonam, said this is not the first time the disease infested potatoes in the locality. “But it affected during harvest time in past years.”

He said ‘late blight’ has affected the tuber early this year and caused severe damages. “Spraying fungicides is not an option for farmers.”

The agriculture officer said intermittent rainfall is a factor in spreading the disease.

Meanwhile, the dzongkhag agriculture team and experts from the national potato programme has assessed the affected fields.

“We will discuss intervention and way forward once the report is finalised,” Sonam said.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

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