Kekuri-Bebejia (Dhakuwakhona), Feb 3 - Kushal Khanikar (56), father of three at Kekuri-Bebejia village under Kekuri-Sonari Sapori Gaon Panchayat of Dhakuwakhona sub-division of Lakhimpur district, is a visibly worried man.
Holding a bunch of newly-dug potato tubers, he expressed grief over the stunted size of his produce. A seasoned farmer, Khanikar compared the size of his potatoes with lizard eggs, a phenomenon now affecting dozens of farmers in 13 revenue villages of Dhakuwakhona sub-division this time, where potato plantations have been affected.
Similar is the case in the potato fields of Rama Saikia, Pushpa Chetia, Lambit Khanikar, Nomal Khanikar and Hari Prasad Saikia of Kekuri-Bebejia area, whose the crop has been stunted too, resulting in huge wastage of funds and hard labour, which have all gone down the drain.
These farmers, it may be mentioned, have been growing potato for generations. They claim that they have never experienced such crop failure in their lifetime, nor have they ever heard about it in the past.
The tiny size of potato tubers in these plantations was preceded by acute shrinkage of the plants after unfurling of the leaves, finally leading to its complete withering.
Recalling his observation last year, farmer Kushal Khanikar said, “the entire potato plantation was affected following germination of the seeds. Then the potato leaves shrunk and the plants died in quick succession.”
Last year, Khanikar and some of his fellow farmers at Kekuri-Bebejia could reap only 10% to 20% of the produce due to infection in their plantations.
The 13 revenue villages in the entire Kekuri-Bebejia region of Dhakuwakhona along with some unmapped villages with 400 households are known to be the potato belt of Lakhimpur district.
This time potato crop was cultivated in more than 650 bighas of land with a minimum of 4 bighas and maximum of 15 bighas per farmer. But outbreak of the unknown disease and stunted size of the produce has left the potato farmers in dire straits, thereby necessitating urgent intervention by the concerned departments.