Farmers in a chickpea field affected by dry rot root disease in Madhya Pradesh, along with Devashish Chobe, PhD scholar, ICRISAT. Photo: ICRISAT

Real-time surveillance decrypts dry root rot spread in Central India

Farmers in a chickpea field affected by dry rot root disease in Madhya Pradesh, along with Devashish Chobe, PhD scholar, ICRISAT.  Photo: ICRISAT

Farmers in a chickpea field affected by dry rot root disease in Madhya Pradesh, along with Devashish Chobe, PhD scholar, ICRISAT. Photo: ICRISAT

Assessing the impact of climate variability on plant diseases and insect pests is the first step towards developing strategies for climate-resilient agriculture.

In its efforts to map the spatial and temporal distribution of diseases and insect pests under a changing climate scenario, the Center of Excellence on Climate Change Research for Plant Protection (CoE-CCRPP) at ICRISAT conducted a real-time field survey on dry root rot disease prevalence in Madhya Pradesh state, India.

Prolonged drought-like conditions and increasing temperatures have increased the disease’s severity on chickpea crops in recent years.

Jagram Dahiya, a farmer from Damoh district in northeastern Madhya Pradesh, is disconsolate as he watches much of his crop being destroyed by the fungal disease.  “I did not imagine the damage this disease could cause when I first noticed it four years ago in my field. Every year I see that I am losing more of my crop to this disease,” he states. He puts his losses at an approximate 75% this season.

Jagram is not alone. “We secured data from farmers in 124 villages across the 23 districts of the state and identified that dry root rot is worsening crop production. The upsurge of this disease was evident in Damoh, Sagar, Narsinghpur, Vidisha and Khandwa districts,” says Dr Mamta Sharma, Theme Leader, Integrated Crop Management (ICM), ICRISAT.

Set up by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) at ICRISAT, the CoE-CCRPP is developing a forewarning model on insect pests and diseases to alert policy makers and farmers. Along with real-time structured surveillance for insect pests and diseases using GPS tagging, the Center’s focus is primarily on predictions on future climate scenarios for 2030 and 2050.

The real-time survey indicated that disease was found irrespective of soil types, cropping systems and cultivars used; dry root rot disease incidence ranged from 5% to 35% or more in badly infected soils.

On an average, 10 farmers’ fields of chickpea in select districts were visited and the dry root rot disease incidence was recorded from randomly selected patches of 1 m2 area within the farmer’s field by using the formula: disease incidence % = (total number of infected plants/ total number of plants in 1m2) X 100.

“We are talking about huge tracts of land all over the region that are essentially of single crop species with one major disease,” says Dr Sharma.

In India, chickpea is primarily grown as a Rabi (post-rainy) crop on residual soil moisture. It ensures nutritional security besides being a rich source of protein. It is also key to sustainable agriculture as the crop improves physical, chemical and biological properties of soil with nitrogen fixation.

Madhya Pradesh, which contributes nearly 40% of total chickpea production in India, has received 8% below normal monsoon rain in 2018. Branded as a hotbed for dryland agriculture and known for its unforgiving summer sun, the state with its current agriculture scene is throwing up new challenges for even drought-hardened agriculturists.

The key sowing period for the crop starts from mid-October till mid-November. Harvesting begins after 110-125 days of sowing.

Farmers Tejaram Patel and Manoj Patak of Narsinghpur district have helplessly witnessed the adverse weather patterns, and along with it, the intensification of dry root rot. “We practice most of the good agricultural practices suggested to us. We maintain optimum soil moisture and implement integrated disease management strategies. Yet, all of this is only helping us limit the damage, not eradicate it. We are desperately in need of better varieties to combat this disease and reverse the loss trends,” they say.

At ICRISAT, disease resistance screening protocols have been standardized and more than 5000 germplasm and breeding lines are being screened for dry root rot. Identified sources of resistance would be used in breeding program.

The CoE-CCRPP also studies host–insect pest/pathogen interactions in relation with simulated climate variables to develop adaptation strategies and minimize crop losses. The Center is developing weather-based plant protection advisory tools for the timely management of diseases and insect pests and builds capacity of stakeholders on suitable plant protection and adaptation strategies for climate-resilient agriculture.

For more on ICRISAT’s work on plant pest and diseases, click here.

For more on ICRISAT’s work on chickpea, click here.

This work contributes to UN Sustainable Development Goal.
13-climate-action 17-partnerships-goals 

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