The pink bollworm infestation on cotton crops has crossed the “economic threshold limit” ( ETL) in some parts of Maharashtra. The insect has hit the crop mainly in Akola, Parbhani, Nanded and Yavatmal where many farmers had opted for early sowing during May and June, said VN Waghmare, director, Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur.
Economic threshold is reached when the the value of the damaged crops exceeds the cost of controlling the pest. Crossing of the threshold means that a sizable amount of the crop may be lost, according to the official. Waghmare said that the kharif pre-monsoon sowing of cotton took place in about 1- 1.5 lakh hectare in the state and those areas have been affected the most. Moreover, the crop is still in the vegetative stage here and therefore has less threat, he said. Earlier this month, officials had confirmed an outbreak of the pink bollworm (PBW) attack in Maharashtra. Preliminary surveys had revealed that around 5% of the crop had been affected by PBW.
Last year’s cotton sowing was estimated at 126.44 lakh hectare. Scientists say that early cotton sowing may be responsible for pink bollworm attack. The worm survives on cotton and develops during the high temperature of summer. Waghmare explained that if the worm attacks the flower and enters the boll, it may survive even during rains. Advisories issued by the government clearly warn farmers to take care of pink bollworm.
This season, early sowing also occurred in some parts of the state as part of a protest launched by Shetkari Sanghatana to symbolically sow banned HTBT Cotton. Senior officials in the agriculture department said that 42 lakh hectare has come under cotton this season, almost the equal to the last year.
Cotton is an important kharif crop and Maharashtra normally sees around 40 lakh hectare area under the crop. As per the data released by the department, sowing is 100% complete. Shetkari Sanghatana claimed that 20% of the cotton crop in the state could be of the HTBT variety. The reduced cotton crop of 312 lakh bales (each of 170 kg) for the season 2018-19, believed to be the lowest in over a decade, is partially attributed to infestations in some growing regions.
Waghmare said that CICR is in touch with the state government, government agencies, deputy directors of agriculture (DDAs), on measures to be taken to control the infestation. Advisories and voice messages have been issued to farmers. CICR also has its own cotton app where advisories have been issued to farmers, he said.
CICR has already initiated a insecticide resistance management programme under the National Food Security Mission covering seven states from last year including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh , Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh. This year the institute shall also cover Haryana. This is an awareness and prevention programme that has benefited farmers in these states, Waghmare said.
“In Maharashtra 21 districts are being monitored by officials. At present, because of the rain, farmers are unable to go in their fields to find out the extent of the infestation but once the rain subsides, we shall get a clearer picture,” he said.