Winter chill sparks concerns among farmers as it threatens to hurt harvest

Farmers and agriculturists worry that if the cold lasts for two more weeks, it may harm the crops even more

Masum Kamalbdnews24.com
Published : 16 Jan 2024, 10:12 PM
Updated : 16 Jan 2024, 10:12 PM

Dulal Hossain, a farmer from Shahrasti in Chandpur, meticulously prepared a seedbed for paddy cultivation across nearly 2.43 hectares of land. Unfortunately for him, the ongoing chilly weather has played havoc with many seedlings.

Another farmer, Shiblur Rahman, grew winter vegetables such potatoes, tomatoes, brinjals, and red spinach, but he has been facing challenges as the potato plants and stems are showing signs of rotting.

With worry lines in his face, Shiblur, speaking to bdnews24.com, said: "The potato plants grew rapidly, and I initially anticipated a good harvest. However, now I am feeling anxious."

Farmers and agriculture specialists said the incidence of fungal diseases has surged with prolonged fog and cold.

Consequently, areas like the seedbed and crop plants are getting infected.

The cold snap and low temperatures in several districts throughout the country have heightened worries, especially among Boro paddy farmers, intensifying the overall agricultural concerns in the region.

Experts say the layer of haze blocking the sunshine is unusual for typical winter fog.

They attribute it to a combination of pollution intermingling with fog, forming a dense veil obscuring the sunlight. This blend of fog and pollutants not only impedes daytime visibility but also intensifies the chill of winter.

The Bengali winter season spans over two months, Poush and Magh. Usually, temperature dips during the end of Poush and the beginning of Magh.

Severe cold conditions have adversely affected crops and fields across a wide area from the end of Poush to the beginning of Magh.

Farmers in certain regions express concern over the forecast rain.

Reports of seedbed damage have emerged from many regions, including Kurigram, caused by a week-long absence of sunlight.

Though there isn't major damage in the fields yet, farmers and agriculturalists are worried that the ‘risk’ of the crops being affected may increase if this weather continues.

On Tuesday, Safayet Ahammad Siddique, deputy director of DAE for Chandpur district, mentioned that the present conditions are favourable for fungal attacks, advising farmers to apply fungicides.

However, he noted, "The fog has cleared today; it's a natural occurrence, beyond our control."

RISING CONCERNS ABOUT SEEDBEDS

Farmers in Kurigram are concerned about cultivating Boro crops in the harsh winter.

Many are resorting to using transparent white plastic covers to safeguard their seedbeds from the cold.

Farmers are hesitant to plant seedlings in this cold weather.

Anisur Rahman, a farmer from Bhogdanga in Kurigram Sadar, shared, "The Boro seedlings have reached maturity, but the cold and fog are making it challenging to plant them in the fields.

“I had to cover the seedbeds with plastic sheets to prevent damage."

Montaz Ali, a farmer from the same area, reported the onset of frost damage in potato fields and seedbeds.

He noted that spraying has proven ineffective.

Biplob Kumar Mahanta, the DAE deputy director in Kurigram, said the district has 6,500 hectares of seedbeds.

According to him, the dense fog and severe cold weather are causing delays in Boro cultivation for farmers.

The Boro paddy season in the country typically extends from mid-November to May. Hence, the seedbed preparation is in progress at this time of the year. Once the seedlings are 40 to 45 days old, they are transplanted into the fields, marking the initiation of the cultivation process.

Md Saiful Alam, additional director (extension and coordination) of the Department of Agricultural Extension's field wing, expressed concern about the prolonged winter.

He highlighted potential risks if the cold weather persists for another two weeks.

Considering the cold-related challenges, Saiful said necessary instructions have been issued at the field level.

Tahmid Hossain Ansari, principal scientific officer at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, explained to bdnews24.com that in cases where the water level in the seedbed is low, meaning the soil is wet but lacks water, the risk of Seedling Blight disease in rice seedlings increases, especially in low temperatures.

Consequently, this leads to a significant loss of seedlings, he said.

“In this cold weather, the soil-borne fungal pathogen Fusarium, which infects the seeds right after sprouting, prevents proper seed setting.

Environmentally, the cold is considered to have an adverse impact.

He said cold often harms the seedlings, but the pathogen causing seedling blight disease is also linked to it.

Several crops, including Boro paddy, potato, pulses, maize, and oilseeds, are typically cultivated in January.

Agriculturists express concerns that if the cold wave persists, it could pose risks to these crops.

Md Faruq Bin Hossain, senior scientific officer at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, or BARI, shared with bdnews24.com that the incidence of fungal diseases tends to rise during a cold wave.

Night temperature below 20 to 22 degrees Celsius is favourable for the fungus , he said.

He added that humidity needs to be between 80 and 90 percent, resulting in water accumulation on leaves because of dew or drizzle, for the fungus to spread.

IDENTIFYING SEEDBED FUNGUS SIGNS

BRRI official Tahmid said if a newly sprouted seedling is affected, its head will turn brown, leading to a gradual death.

For older seedlings with two or three leaves, yellow spots will appear in certain areas, with some parts remaining green and others turning yellow, he said.

In the advanced stages of the attack, affected seedlings become shorter in the impacted areas, while those in the green parts grow taller, Tahmid added.

He emphasised that spraying on seeds is the most effective method to control this disease. If this preventive measure is not taken initially, he recommended immediate spraying if symptoms appear after the seedlings have grown.

ADDRESSING WINTER CROP DISEASES

BARI official Faruq said Late Blight infection occurs in potatoes in such cold weather.

The disease, caused by the fungus known as Phytophthora Infestans, results in the decay of leaves and stems in potato plants.

He mentioned that all the plants in the field might perish within two to three days.

Faruq recommended spraying the crop three times, mixing two grams of Rovral, a fungicide, per litre of water when the stem rot disease occurs.

Lentils are more damaged if the temperature drops further.

The rotting of roots is an important yield-limiting factor in lentils.

The lentil plant is affected by the disease caused by the fungus Sclerotium Rolfsii.

Quick action is necessary in case of an attack, or the entire crop may be lost.

Faruq recommended addressing root rot disease in lentils by combining the pesticide Autostin 50 WP with 0.2 grams per litre of water and spraying the mixture two to three times at seven to ten days intervals.

In chickpeas, adverse weather conditions can lead to the occurrence of Botrytis Blight or Gray Mold disease.

This leads to the inner leaves turning yellow and drying within five to seven days.

To remedy this, a mixture of two millilitres of Acrobat MZ or two grams of Autostin per litre of water should be prepared and applied through spraying two to three times over a period of seven to 10 days.

Stem rot disease occurs in mustard at this time, leading to plant decay and death if not addressed.

To prevent this disease, it's important to sterilise the seeds with Provax-200 before planting.

It is recommended to mix two grams of Rovral per litre of water and apply it three times—during the growth stage, flowering, and fruiting stages.

[Writing in English by Arshi Fatiha Quazi; editing by Osham-ul-Sufian Talukder]