With ideal time for sowing already over by more than a week, Haryana has so far been able to achieve only 76 per cent of its target of cotton sowing. The weekly report of the Agriculture Department for May 22 shows that cotton had been sown on 4.97 lakh hectares against the target of 6.48 lakh.
Agriculture experts recommend that cotton must be sown before May 15 for maximum yield and lower infestation by whitefly and leaf curl virus.
Sources attribute shortage of canal water in the cotton growing districts from the Bhakra canal system and lesser interest in the crop due to lower prices this year as reasons for the phenomenon.
Dr Dilip Monga, Head, Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Sirsa, confirmed that the sowing this time was quite low both in Haryana as well as in Punjab despite their specific recommendations that it should be completed between April 15 and May 15. He said late sowing could lead to infestations by whitefly and leaf curl virus thereby affecting the yield badly.
“In 2015-16, a year after one of the worst attack of whitefly and leaf curl virus on cotton crop in the region, the CICR had conducted trials in Northern India for the impact of these infestations on cotton sown on May 15 versus the crop sown on June 7. We found the infestations were much more in the late sown crop and the yield remained one-third in the crop sown on June 7 as against that sown on May 15,” said Dr Monga.
Gurdeep Singh Mann, a farmer from Kirpal Patti in Sirsa, said that failure of cotton last year and prolonged closure of the Bhakra canal were the major reasons for lower sowing.
“The recommended pre-irrigation for cotton sowing is canal water as it is much superior to any borewell water. Cotton growers kept waiting for canal water and the optimum time for cotton sowing was lost,” Mann said.
Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar said that things were beyond the control of the government as water in the Bhakra reservoir was short and the state was proportionately getting 2,000 to 2,500 cusecs less than normal supply.
“Due to lesser allocation of water these days, the farmers are getting water for one week followed by closure of channels for two weeks, while during heydays, it was two weeks of supplies followed by two weeks of closure,” Dhankar said.