Experts in the dark

Published: Saturday 31 October 1998

PANIC gripped farmers of Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts of Punjab, when a deadly disease afflicted their paddy crop. Agriculture experts are still probing the mysterious epidemic, first noticed in Gurdaspur two years ago.

The epidemic, which is reffered to as "jaundice'", first turns the crop pale yellow, and then a gradual decaying process begins. According to the state agricultural director, A S Randhawa, 30,000 hectare (ha) of paddy in Gurdaspur district and 1,200 ha in Amritsar district has been affected by the mysterious disease.

Insecticides, herbicides and pesticides have failed to control the spread of the disease, which was limited to only a couple of hectares in 1996.

Agriculture experts from the International Rice Research Institute of the Philippines, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and other institutes visited the affected areas but failed to determine the nature of the disease.

Some experts believe that the epidemic is similar to the one known as tungru found in rice-growing countries such as China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

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