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Rice dwarfing virus threatens Indian yields


Officials fear up to seven per cent crop losses as a plant virus surfaces in India’s main rice-producing states.

A plant virus disease first identified in China has been detected in north Indian paddy fields causing fears of reduced crop yields at a time when extreme weather events have already hampered grain production.

Rice plants infected with the Southern Rice Black-Streaked Dwarf Virus (SRBSDV) exhibit dwarfism, stiffness, and darkening of leaves.

The virus — transmitted by the white-backed planthopper (Sogatella furcifera) when it sucks on the sap of young plants — interferes with root development and plant growth.

Detected in Guangdong Province in 2001, the disease was confined to China for the next few years before spreading to other countries such as Vietnam and Japan. A research paper shows that it can cause a 30 to 50 per cent reduction in rice yields.

The Indian government fears that the outbreak might add to losses caused by erratic southwest monsoon rainfalls. The area under paddy cultivation has been six per cent lower this August compared to the same period last year. Rice accounts for 40 per cent of India’s total food grain basket.

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