The wheat crop has been affected by rust disease in different parts of Buner, a district in the Malakand division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, some fields have turned yellow and some have been completely destroyed. Farmers are cutting and destroying the crop because according to them, this crop can no longer be used even as fodder for animals.
This disease affecting wheat is called Yellow Leaf Rust or Wheat Rust in English, ‘Kingi’ or ‘Rati’ in Urdu, and ‘Surkha’ in the local language Pashto.
Besides, according to the department of plant pathology, University of Ohio, “There are three different rust diseases that affect wheat—leaf rust (also known as brown rust or orange rust), stripe rust (commonly known as yellow rust), and stem rust (commonly referred to as black rust of black stem rust).”
“Any of these diseases can infect and cause substantial yield losses if not adequately managed. Rusts are notorious for their ability to spread rapidly and reduce wheat yield and quality. It all depends on the susceptibility of the variety, race of the pathogen present, the timing of infection, and weather conditions. Damage to wheat depends on the growth stage at the time of infection and the overall level of rust severity”, experts at the department furthered.
Farmers in Buner are applying fungicides to eradicate the disease and ripen the wheat crop, but the disease is out of control in some areas.
Abdul Hadi, a resident of Dagar, said he saw yellow leaves of wheat in his field a few days ago and after cutting them and showing them to a friend at the agricultural store, he came to know that his wheat was infected with a dangerous disease.
Hadi said, in order to prevent the disease, when he bought medicine from the agricultural store, he had to wait for two or three days for the pressure pump, due to which the disease spread to all the fields nearby and he had to buy more chemicals.
“Nowadays it has become more difficult to find pressure pumps than medicine,” he added.
Adalat Khan, the deputy director of the Agriculture Department, Buner, said the disease was more prevalent in the Chinglai and Totalai areas of Buner, but now it has been controlled. Rust disease has also caused heavy damage to the wheat crop in the adjacent areas of Swabi and Mardan, including Buner, he added.
Adalat Khan said that in the present time, the fungicide has proved to be helpful in preventing the disease and the farmer should spray it, as soon as possible, on the wheat crop to prevent further damage. This drug is available in all agricultural stores in Buner for Rs300.
Rust disease and its treatment
According to Plantix, a mobile crop advisory app for farmers, rust disease is caused by a fungus called ‘Puccinia, and is most prevalent in wheat at temperatures between 12 and 22 degrees Celsius, with relative humidity between 52 and 64. ”It is more harmful” warns the advisory app.
Bakht Jahan, Vice-Chancellor of Agricultural University Peshawar, said that Pakistan has been facing a shortage of wheat for two to three years. Last year too, the production of wheat in the country decreased.
He said wheat can get about 50 diseases, and yellow wheat rust is one of them. It is a highly damaging disease, spread by wind, it can reduce the yields of wheat crops by 25%.
According to Prof. Bakht Jahan, to avoid such diseases, farmers should choose the better times and good seeds to sow wheat crops, however, the problem with us is that farmers do not change wheat seeds and use the same seed every year.
He said the immunity of the old seeds is low, so they cannot fight the disease, while the wheat can get yellow rust disease even with excessive use of nitrogen.
Bakht Jahan said yellow rust affects the leaves of the plant because it is from the leaves that the wheat spikes and grains get food and when the leaves are infected, the wheat grain stops getting the food it needs and thus the yield decreases.
Fazal Dayan, who works at a local agricultural store, said if the weather is not cloudy, the yellow leaves of wheat turn green within a week after spraying, but for the past few days, the area has been covered with clouds and occasional rain, causing difficulties for the farmers.