Rice farmers in Jashore are eagerly waiting to harvest the Aman crop, the golden paddy. They will celebrate the harvest festival "Nabanna Utshob" in the first week of the Bangla month of Agrahayan if the weather is favourable. They are working day and night for a good yield.
However, despite their enormous efforts for the last three months, their dreams are being shattered as a special kind of insect locally known as 'Current pest', is attacking the Aman paddy.
A farmer named Masum Sheikh of Boguratola village in Abhaynagar upazila said, "I cultivated the Aman crop on three bighas of land, but the pests have damaged the crops on 1.5 bighas."
When the Current pest attacks, it eats the grain inside the paddy, while the sheaf and the paddy ripen outside and turn golden.
Altaf Sheikh of the same area said, "The Current pest has affected the ropa-aman paddy. The paddy and its sheaf turned golden but there is no grain inside."
In the current season, the farmers have grown Aman paddy on 1,39,125 hectares of land against the target of 1,34,975 hectares of land in eight upazilas – Sadar, Jhikargachha, Sharsha, Chougachcha, Monirampur, Keshobpur, Abhaynagar and Bagharpara, according to sources at the Department of Agriculture Extension.
But their efforts are going in vain because the pests have spread to most unions of Sadar upazila.
A farmer of Churamankati Chatiantola village under Sadar upazila said, "I have grown Aman paddy on four bighas of land in the current season, but the Current pest has attacked almost 1.5 bighas of the land. I have used pesticides, now let's see what happens."
The Current pest also spoilt the crops on 16.5 decimals of land out of 2 bigha and 24.8 decimals of land belonging to another farmer named Mahbubur Rahman of Dhupkhali village in Bagharpara upazila.
Rafiqul Bishwas of Dhalgram village of the same upazila said they cultivated Aman paddy on five bighas of land, but the crops on almost one bigha of land got damaged by the Current pest.
The farmers complained that the Department of Agriculture Extension did not give them any information on how to control the pests.
However, Khalid Saifullah, the agriculture officer of Sadar upazila said, "Some land has been affected by the Current pest, but it has not caused much damage."
"We are advising the farmers after discussing their problems with them."
"The land got affected by the pests because there is lack of adequate light and poor air circulation there," said Sushanto Kumar Tarafdar, the additional deputy director of the Department of Agriculture Extension.
"The pests could have been controlled by using pesticides at the onset. However, this year the extent of damage is lower than in other years."
He further said they have advised the farmers to cut the affected crops.