The outbreak of rice blast in Shengana, Punakha as reported online is not severe, according to agriculture officers in Punakha.

Punakha dzongkhag agriculture officer, Karma Tenzin, said that dzongkhag agriculture officers and officials from Agriculture Research and Development Centre in Bajo, Wangdue visited the gewogs and observed minor incidence of rice blast in some gewogs including Shengana.

However, he said there is nothing to worry about.

“Rice blast is one of the most destructive rice diseases. But since it is harvesting time now, the disease won’t have much affect on the production,” Karma Tenzin said. “We met the farmers and they are being trained on selecting disease-free seeds.”

Rice blast is a fungal infestation that occurs in all rice growing areas. The disease attacks all the parts of the crop growing above the soil.

Senior dzongkhag agriculture officer in Punakha, NB Adhikari, said leaf, collar and neck blasts are the types of rice blast disease.

Rice can have blast in all growth stages. But, leaf blast incidence tends to lessen as plants mature and develop adult plant resistance. “The characteristic symptoms of leaf blast disease appear on the leaf sheath as a brown spindle-shaped lesion. The lesion is more or less eye or boat-shaped with grey or dark margins,” NB Adhikari said.

Leaf blast can kill rice plants at seedling stage and cause yield losses in cases of severe infection.

In case of neck blasts, brown to black spots or rings are formed on the rachis of the maturing inflorescence.

“To prevent the disease the following year, it is important for farmers to select disease-free seed before harvesting,” NB Adhikari said.

A training to the farmers on paddy selection and educating on paddy pest and disease are underway in Punakha.

Karma Tenzin said the farmers were given the same training before also. “They are aware of selecting disease-free seeds.”

The training of the farmers in Barp, Shengana and Dzomi gewogs are complete. The farmers in Guma, Chhubu, Talo and Lingmukha will be trained this week.

NB Adhikari said the training is provided to enhance technical knowledge and skills on proper seed selection including storage practice and make farmers understand the importance of quality seed for good rice production and marketing.

Selection of disease-free seeds from standing crops, proper seed treatment before sowing and timely crop management technique in standing crops, minimum use of chemical, additional awareness on cultural techniques for controlling pest and disease during paddy cultivation are also taught to the farmers.

Agriculture officials said they are monitoring the fields.

“Every field is observed for the disease and reports are submitted to the dzongkhag agriculture office for compilation and further submission to relevant agency if the disease is severe,” NB Adhikari said.

Dechen Tshomo