Following an outbreak of pest and brown spot disease in their paddy fields recently, farmers of three chiwogs in Saling, Mongar are worried about the yield this year.

Brown spot is discoloration on the leaves caused by fungus affecting the leaves and stalks. This is the first reported case in Saling.

Galikha is another chiwog, which has been affected the most by the recent outbreak. Such cases have been also reported in Thridangbi and Tsenzabi_Masangdaza chiwogs.

Some leased landholders said they won’t be able to return the landowner’s share if the harvest is not good. Today, there are almost 23 households working on leased land in Galikha.

“I am worried there won’t be enough harvest and half of it has to be shared with the landowner,” Chengamo, 63 said.

She cultivates paddy on five acres of land, which belongs to an owner in Ura, Bumthang.

Another affected farmer, Tshewang Choden, 43, said that for the last three years, the paddy saplings get infested two weeks after transplantation. But the didn’t e didn’t inform the gewog agriculture extension officer because the infestation do not last long. They informed the officials when the pests infested the plants that had begun to fruit.

They had informed the agriculture officials too late. The agriculture extension officer visited the site and asked farmers to use urea and medicine.

“By giving half of the harvest to the landowner, there won’t be anything left for us to eat,” Sonam Delma said. Until now, the farmers had not bought imported rice, but with the yield likely to be poor this year, they may be compelled to buy imported rice.

Tshewang Choden said that this year they would not even earn enough to make up for the labour charges.

On average, farmers spend about Nu 15,000 every year on paddy transplantation. A large portion of this is spent on paying labour charges.

Gewog agriculture extension supervisor Sonam Yangden said, the pest and disease outbreak has occurred due to climate change and farmers using old stock seeds.

The gewog office had suggested affected farmers to apply urea to retain the plants and had also distributed spray machines and pesticides to control the pest. However, she said that some farmers are reluctant to apply chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

A team from agriculture research and development center in Wengkhar also visited and inspected the affected paddy fields.

Tashi Phuntsho  | Saling