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State permits only early ending cotton seeds to prevent bollworm attack

Nagpur: In a bid to prevent pink bollworm attack, the pest which ruined cotton crop last year, the state agriculture department has allowed only short duration varieties of plants for the coming season. Till last year, cotton seeds that gave crops spanning even 160 to 180 days were available in the market. These varieties have not been granted permission for Kharif season of 2018.
If the long duration crops remain in fields post November, it coincides with the bollworm’s life cycle. This is not possible in crops with a shorter lifespan. Short duration crops, however, will mean less rounds of cotton picking for the farmer. Farmers prefer to continue the crop for maximum possible period to get higher output.

Short duration crops don’t survive beyond three months, and can be cleared much before the bollworm emerges on the fields. The agriculture department has denied licences for 26 varieties of cotton seeds this year. All these seeds are of a span ranging up to 180 days, said a senior official in the department.
Farmers in the region prefer continuing the crop up to February-March, so that maximum amount of cotton bolls are picked and earnings maximized. This also exposes the crop to bollworm. mThe problem came up only a couple of years ago. The Bt cotton seeds, which are usually used by farmers, are supposed to be resistant to the pest. However, there has been a gradual failure of the genetically modified crops, with the crisis being worse in Maharashtra during 2017. Prior to it, there was a major attack in Gujarat.
The state has also started a drive to ensure that stalks of last year’s cotton crop which are cut from the fields are destroyed. It has been found that the stalks are still lying in many fields Teams of officials are touring villages to ensure that the plants are burned down, said a senior officer.
Farmers TOI spoke to said they are ready to accept the short duration varieties as long as it saves them from the bollworm attack. Vijay Ingle, a farmer from Akot, said they may settle for less harvest, which can be compensated by growing gram subsequently. “We are ready for less output, if it helps in doing away with the bollworms, which had left us bleeding,” said Vinod Kankirad, a farmer in Yavatmal. Kishore Tiwari, chairman of Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swavalamban Mission (VNSSM), a state government agency, however, expressed concern saying that short varieties may reduce the earnings for farmers.