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Indonesian extension officers receive training in monitoring insect pests in potatoes (Courtesy West Australian State Government)
Dozens of hectares of potato plantations in Batur district, Banjarnegara regency, Central Java, have died in just a few hours after being stricken by frost, known locally as bun upas, resulting in financial losses of up to hundreds of millions of rupiah to local farmers.

Bun upas, which literally means poisonous dew, a cold, fog-like dew that attacks plantations, causing potato crops to die in mere hours.

The fog turns into crystal after falling to the ground.

“If the fog attacks in the morning, by the following afternoon all the plants will for sure be withered and dried out,” said Hartono, a resident of Dieng Kulon subdistrict, Batur, while inspecting his field on Saturday morning.

Hartono said that the cold fog was not a disease, yet farmers were more afraid of it than pests.

“Pests can be anticipated and handled quickly with pesticide. But the fog cannot. There is no way to anticipate it as it is a natural phenomenon,” Hartono said.

Banjarnegara Deputy Regent Hadi Supeno said that the local administration could not do anything about bun upas as it was an unpredictable natural phenomenon.

“We do receive reports from farmers about the bun upas attacks, but we cannot do much about it,” Hadi told the Post.

What the regency administration could do, according to Hadi, was remind farmers not to plant potato crops continuously to avoid bun upas, which usually arrives in July or August.

“Doing so is also good for the soil, as it gives it time to rest and recover instead of producing potatoes nonstop,” said Hadi, adding that farmers had often ignored such recommendations due to economic considerations.