Cotton ginners in Maharashtra are finding it difficult to source cotton this season as more than 50% of the crop in the state has been affected by pink bollworm. Out of about 150 ginning units in the state, only 100 are active but even these are working at 50% capacity, top officials of the Khandesh Gin/Press Factory Owners Association indicated. The state is staring at a loss in production of cotton crop this year due to the pink bollworm pest which is reported to have affected more than 50% of the crop. The bleak crop would in turn hit the availability of good quality cotton to the ginners. Pradeep Jain, president of the ginners association said the season could be short this year and good quality cotton may only be available only until December. Thereafter, farmers may be required to uproot their crops and burn it to ensure that the worms do not proliferate, he added. Jain said that it take a couple of years to overcome the issue.
A team from the Nashik Agricultural Directorate visited Jalgaon this week to identify the seriousness of the issue. The start was good in June-August when the crop was sown. The first attack in August was not that serious. Thereafter, the pink bollworms matured and affected the crop. The ginners association, which has been attempting to export cotton, found their samples rejected by parties. ” The quality has been badly affected. Reddish and yellow lines in the cotton has affected both productivity and quality,” Jain said. The state agriculture department has already written to the Centre to denotify BG II as it has lost its efficacy to fight the pest. Dr CD Mayee , president of the board of directors of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), said that the attack of pink bollworm is in the range of 10% to 40% in some pockets of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. “The crop has already been harvested in the north and therefore this region does not have any problem. It is more prominent in central India, including Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, which is a dry land and where there was a drought in the initial stages of the crop. This was followed by unseasonal rainfall, thus affecting flowering which in turn lead to higher chances of infestation,” Mayee explained.
“During the last three-four years, there has been an erosion of resistance to BG II, which is obvious because the same product cannot have resistance for 16 years to the pink bollworm,” Mayee had said earlier. Pink bollworm is a small, thin, gray moth with fringed wings — the most damaging of all pests that attack cotton crop in the country. The female moth lays eggs on cotton balls and larvae emerge only to destroy entire fields by chewing through the cotton lint to feed on seeds. A research report by Dr K R Kranthi, former director of Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), shows that pink bollworm has developed resistance to Bollgard-II Bt cotton not only in Maharashtra but other cotton-growing states as well. Bollgard-II is the Bt hybrid variety that was introduced in 2010. “There are only two benefits of Bt cotton. One, it controls bollworm, due to which the yield is protected. Two, it reduces use of insecticides meant for bollworm control. Currently, cotton growers do not get either benefit,” Kranthi had said earlier.