Potato crops affected by blight in Chukha

Chukha consists of 11 gewogs, of which Chapcha and Bjabcho gewogs produce almost 90 percent of the total potato production in Chukha. However, the production level has been affected by annual cases of Potato Tuber Moth (PTM). PTM attacks Solanaceous crops with potato being favored.

According to farmers, potatoes that were kept in storage were affected by blight last year, while this year, the potato crop is being affected in the field itself. The Deputy Chief Dzongkhag Agriculture Officer in Chukha, Saha Bir Rai, said that many PTM outbreaks were reported from the fields in Chapcha gewog this year.

Upon receiving such reports, the Dzongkhag Agriculture Office (DAO)contacted the National Plant Protection Center (NPPC) for the necessary support and expertise in the field. In addition, the DAO also supports the farmers in increasing the farm production. Collection of data on the production level is recorded every year.

“We report to the Department of Agriculture (DoA) of any field related technical issues which are out of our capacity,” Saha Bir Rai added.

As per the agriculture statistics, the potato production has reduced from 8,841 metric tonne (MT) in 2016 which is exclusive of production lost to pest and natural calamities to 2, 900 MT in 2017, which has mainly attributed to potato late blight disease and PTM outbreaks which devastated the crop production last year.

However, DoA has been actively managing the issue in the field through a number of programs such as, on farm trial of late blight disease resistant varieties, and trials on PTM management by NPPC in Chapcha gewog this year.

The Dzongkhag Agriculture sector under the guidance of Dzongkhag Administration has also initiated the winter potato program to meet the potato production target. In 2017-2018, the winter potato yield contributed more than 500 MT to meet the production target.

Meanwhile, Chapcha Gup Tobgay said, “Production had gone down last year as well with the disease outbreak. But this year, it is worse with disease and with very less rainfall,” he added.

Last year, a 50-kg bag fetched a maximum price of Nu 1500 while this year the maximum price is Nu 1800 per 50-kg bag.

Bjabcho Gup Penjor Dorji said that potato production is much better this year compared to last year. He attributed the enhanced production to the better quality of seeds used.  “The production was better from the area where we have sowed the seeds from Shemagangkha, Chapcha gewog while the production was poor from the areas where we have used seeds from Phobjikha and Bumthang,” he added.

He said that the potato yield and quality is good this year, and that there have been no reports of diseases affecting the crop in the gewog as of now.

Talking a farmer from Lobneykha, Chapcha gewog, Dumbay, last year the production was very poor due to rotten potatoes being harvested. Even the good harvest was affected during storage time due to the disease and heat.

He said, “Last year, we got a very low rate, whereby per bag we got only Nu 1700, and at the end of the season we got only Nu 300 to Nu 400 per bag.”

Although the production is a bit better than last year, Dumbay could only take 50 percent of his total production sell in the market. “After harvesting, I had 80 bags. It is disheartening that I could barely take 50 percent of it to the market due to the disease,” he added.

He said that each bag fetched Nu 1900 to Nu 2000 in the start of the trade season, however, for now the rate has gone down to Nu 1500 per bag.

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