Seeing red in the ‘pink ballworm’ menace affecting the cotton crop in Maharashtra and Telangna, the Punjab Agriculture University (PAU) has issued an advisory to Punjab’s cotton growers. Notably, the pink bollworm has damaged Bt cotton crop this year in some south and central Indian cotton-growing states like Maharashtra, Telangana etc. Alarmed, the PAU has warned the state farmers against the harmful pest.
The development assumes significance as the state’s cotton growers have suffered massive loss due to attack by the whitefly pest in 2015 — resulting in mounting numbers of farnmers’ suicides. The advisory, issued by Regional Research Station at Bathinda, has asked the farmers to follow PAU recommendations to avoid the possibility of attack by pink bollworm that eat away the cotton fibre and the bolls.
It advised the farnmers that picking should be completed as early as possible and cotton sticks should be removed from the fields. Farmers should remove the cotton sticks immediately from the fields, if they have not done this so far. Trashes of cotton and unopened bolls should also be removed from the field, it added. The advisory has also asked the farmers that animals like goats, sheep among others, should be allowed to graze on unopened bolls and plant debris in the cotton fields after the previous picking.
PAU pointed that pink bollworm can also survive on leftover cotton sticks in the field, and thus sowing of wheat in standing cotton crop should be avoided. Where it has been done, the cotton sticks shpoild be removed immediately. It has advised against stacking of cotton sticks in the fields. “Stacking should be done away from fields, preferably in village area in vertical form, away from shade after removing all the unopened bolls,” it read.
The farmers ahve also been asked to complete the ginning process latest by the end of March and leftover cotton seeds must be fed to the cattle. Acid de-linting of cottonseed kills the hidden larvae, so use the only de-linted seed for sowing, it has been advised. About 1.3 million hecatres of the 4.2 million hectare under the crop is suspected to be infected by the pink bollworm pest in Maharashtra,especially in Yavatmal district where the farmer suicide has been rampant.
In the wake of the disaster caused by the pest in Maharashtra, some of the farmers in Punjab has started storing the raw cotton hoping for higher prices in future even as the pink ballworm attack on cotton in Maharashtra is yet to affect prices. Congress-led Punjab Govrnment, already learning lessosn from the past, has asked the PAU to launch a joint awareness campaign to educate the farmers about recommended varieties of hybrids to be sown and use of quality pesticides. Notably, the state government had to cough up more than whopping Rs 640 crore as compensation to the cotton cultivators suffering loss due to whitefly attack in 2015.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has issued strict directions to the PAU and the state Agriculture Department to intensify round-the-clock surveillance and regular monitoring on the ground to check any pest attack. He had also stressed on the need for scouting at village level, with the scouts and supervisors to be made accountable for any lapses in educating the farmers on crop protection and weed eradication. Cotton is the second major kharif crop of the state after paddy. For kharif 2017, an action plan for cotton production was prepared under which four lakh hectares were targeted. The estimated area under cotton during this season is about 3.82 lakh hectares compared to 2.57 lakh hectares in 2016. In 2016, 8.90 lakh bales of cotton had arrived in the mandis of Punjab while the cotton yield was recorded at 22 quintals per hectare (756 kg of lint per hectare).