A deadly fungus in wheat is the latest menace which entered India through the Bengal-Bangladesh border. Bengal shares a 2,217-km border with Bangladesh. It affected the two districts of Murshidabad and Nadia earlier in February this year leading to burning of crops over 1,000 acres. The disease known as Wheat Blast, caused by a fungus, prompts the ripe wheat to turn whitish and dry up. First sighted in Brazil in 1985, and widespread in South American wheat fields, it has been known to affect as much as 3 million hectares in the early 1990's. The virus entered Asia for the first time in 2016, causing damage to crops over 20,000 hectares in Bangladesh.
The scientists term the 'wheat blast' as genetically complex. It has been more than three decades and they still fail to determine how it interacts with the wheat. Strict measures are being taken by the Mamata Banerjee government to address the serious issue. It has forced the state government to ban the wheat cultivation in two districts bordering Bangladesh. "The only way to stop it is not to cultivate wheat. This is the sowing season and we want to prevent it. Steps are also been taken to prevent its spread to any other state," said Asish Banerjee, state Agriculture Minister.
"Various steps are being taken such as ban on wheat cultivation in the two districts, and within 5 km of the border throughout the state. We have also banned movement of wheat grains out of the affected areas in Bengal," said the minister. Meanwhile, the farmers are being asked to sow alternate crops. The centre has warned states Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Assam to keep an eye of the spread of the disease. The Bengal government strives to achieve the goal by campaigning with banners and leaflets, and through loudspeakers. India is the second largest producer of wheat in the world.
Krishi Jagran, Delhi