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Blight ravages rice farms

Farms are coming under attack by rice disease caused by blight. This is  coming on the heels of the recent floods that destroyed rice farms across the country.

Blight is a broad range of plant diseases that cause browning, yellowing and withering followed by death of plant tissues. Plants attacked by the disease have discoloured stems, fruits and leaves.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the disease is caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv Oryzae, which results in wilting of seedlings, yellowing and drying of leaves.

The IRRI said: “The disease is most likely to develop in areas that have weeds and stubbles of infected plants. It can occur in both tropical and temperate environments, particularly in irrigated and rain-fed lowland areas,” adding that in general, the disease favoured temperatures at 25−34°C, with relative humidity above 70%.

Daily Trust visited some rice farms at Gurara irrigation site in Jere, Kaduna State, where it found out that many of the farms have been attacked by the blight.

One of the affected farmers is a renowned politician, Alhaji Buba Galadima, whose rice farm is under attack by the disease. The farmer, who took our team round the farm, said with the attack, he would be losing over N20 million he had invested on the farm aside from the expected gain.

He said a lot was expended to clear the land, enrich the soil with needed nutrients and get seeds from reliable source, unfortunately the blight wiped out all his investment and expected gains.

“I called the experts at Badeggi Cereal Research Institute and they said it was a fungi blight and that once it attacked a farm, there was no remedy as it will completely destroy crops on the farm,” he explained.

Alhaji Galadima is, however, hoping to get appreciable harvest from the about 15 hectares rice farm not affected by the blight attack, from which he could recoup some of his expenses.

He said in addition to the money he spent to prepare the farm, he bought fertiliser from the open market at N8,000 per bag, adding that he used about 500 bags on the 40 hectares farm.

He said the pivoted irrigation water sprayers at the farm were all faulty as their parts had been stolen and that he had to resuscitate some of them, which gulped additional money.

Alhaji Galadima called on the relevant authorities to revive the extension service system, where extension workers would be available to farmers for necessary guidance.

“If there were extension service workers, they would have visited the farms and noticed the coming of the disease and possibly find early solution to it,” he said.

In Alwaza, a community in Nasarawa State, some farms have also been devastated by the disease.

Simon Yonana, one of the farmers, said his two hectares farm has been destroyed by the disease.

He told Daily Trust that despite applying karete when he first noticed the rice were turning yellow, he was unable to salvage the situation.

When Daily Trust visited the farm, it appears Mr Yonana will reap very little from the farm in contrast to a reasonable amount of money  he earned from it last year.

He said he has spent a lot on the farm this year as he expanded the farm but that the disease had ruined his investment and opportunity to be richer this year.

One of our reporters who was at the farm saw most parts of it affected by the blight and it appeared there was very little he would reap during harvest.

South of his farm, another farmer had a tale of sorrow to tell. His farm had also been ravaged by the disease.

He said this time last year, he harvested four tonnes per hectare – a situation that encouraged him to take a wife.

This year, unfortunately, there is very little he can pick from the farm. Rice blight had reversed the progress he had set his mind and invested on.

Nuhu, as he is called, said the disease defied all effort to save his rice farm.

Emmanuel Akor, who works with Syngenta Nigeria-one of the biggest multinational agro allied coy, has described the disease as a fungi attack which normally takes it roots from the affected seeds the farmers use.

He said most of the seed used by farmers which are bought from the open markets are infected, adding that the fungi complete their circle as soon as the seeds are planted.

Once a farm is infected, the farmers can lose up to 75% of the crop yield, he said.

He advised farmers to always use not only certified seeds but treated certified seeds and observe good agronomy practices to avoid things like this.

The International Rice Research Institute has advised farmers to practice good cleaning of equipment and field between season, use clean seeds and resistant varieties, plant at the same time as your neighbours.

Farmers are also asked not to over apply fertilizer and avoid applying pesticides within 40 days of planting.

Source: Daily Trust

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