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The disease was first detected in Nongpoh, Meghalaya and later in Jowai area in the NE hill states. The disease causes 5-10% yield losses and most of the local varieties are affected. The panicle emerges from the leaf sheath as a straight, dirty coloured , hard cylindrical spike, reduced in size, much resembling an agarbatti or udbatta and hence the name. No grains are formed on the affected ear and cause 100% sterility of the panicle. Infected panicles are shorter in size.
The disease is caused by Ephelis oryzae (Balansia oryzae). The fungus forms a stroma over the entire length and girth of the inflorescence and black, convex pycnidia are formed in the stroma. Pycnidiospores are hyaline, 4-5 celled and needle shaped.
The fungus is seed borne and enters the plant during germination. The fungus survives on grasses lsachne elegans, Cynodon dactylon and Pennisutam sp. during off-season. The disease incidence is less on very early and late sown crops.
The disease control measures are:
Hot water treatment of seeds at 50-54°C for 10 minutes before sowing
Avoiding the use of seeds from infected fields
Seed treatment with 0.1 % Carbendazim and spraying of same fungicide at the panicle initiation stage