Farmers are worried about infestations, but state officials are confident that necessary measures have been taken.
Maharashtra’s cotton crop, which has completed nearly 60 days after sowing, is already showing signs of a pink bollworm attack. Although the severity is yet to be known, cotton farmers in the state are already worried about the crop’s fate this season.
Maharashtra Agriculture Commissioner Sachenra Pratap Singh has said the department has already swung into action, following reports of incidence in some cotton-growing regions. Pink bollworm attack on cotton has been reported this year from Akola and Washim districts in Vidarbha; Nanded and Parbhani in Marathawada and Jalgaon in Khandesh.
Last year, the insect had caused large-scale damage to the crop in central and eastern parts of Maharashtra — the main cotton-growing regions of the state. The state government had announced compensation for the affected farmers.
According to officials of the department, the infestation has shown its presence again. Larvae of the insect have been spotted on the crop which had been sown nearly 60 days ago. If it is not controlled in time, the plants will wither and this could affect the yield. Pink bollworm is an insect that chews through the cotton lint to feed on the seeds. Its infestation starts at budding stage because of which flowers do not bloom or often exhibit rosette-shape flower. The larvae bore into bolls, feed on inner content and developing seeds.
Commissioner Sachendra Pratap Singh told FE that the government was going all out to control any possible attack. Dismissing reports of a severe attack in some regions, he said this time the government had taken a pro-active effort. Officers have been appointed in all 20 cotton-growing districts here to inspect areas and create awareness on how to deal with it. The pheromone traps are cheap and cost merely `50 per piece, he said. Two traps can cover an acre.
The commissioner said he himself had inspected three regions in Nanded, Latur and Parbhani and the menace was reported to a small extent in three plots in some 25 villages. The attack is not as severe as it is being made out to be but we must not remain complacent and farmers should take all necessary measures, he said.
In an advisory issued to farmers, the department has advised farmers to use phermone traps within 45 days of sowing. If the trap catches a minimum of 8-10 male pink bollworms per day , the use of pesticide is highly recommended.
The pheromone traps are available for sale at authorised sellers of Agro Industries Development Corporation.
According to the advisory, at least two traps must be placed on one-acre cotton farm. The commissioner said the agricultural universities in the state were slated to carry out survey of the insect with the help of pheromone traps installed at farmers and mills.
Pradeep Jain, president, Khandesh Cotton/Ginners Association, said a meeting was held in Jalgaon with senior agriculture department officials, Ginners Association members, seed companies, pesticide firms and experts from the Rahuri Agriculture University.
The attack was severe despite the measures taken this time, he said, adding that it would take another two-three years to control the disease and break the life cycle of the insect completely. The severity will be known in another 15 days and in the meanwhile, the association has begun a sensitisation programme with farmers and pheromone traps are also being kept in ginning units. he said.
This year, cotton cultivation has been done on about 37 lakh hectares of land in the state, against the 41 lakh hectares last year, the official said.
The plants are sown from April to July in the state. Farmers who generally opt for pre-seasonal (during April-May) plantation have shifted to other crops, which have brought down the overall cotton plantation figures in the state by three-four lakh hectares.