From 700 villages in Maharashtra where the outbreak of the Pink Bollworm infestation on cotton crops had crossed the ‘economic threshold limit’ in August, the number has drastically come down to barely 20 villages, senior officials of the state agriculture department have said.
According to Vijay Kumar Ingale, director, Quality Control, Department of Agriculture, as per the estimates of September 9, the number of villages has come down substantially to 20 across the cotton growing regions of the state. We cannot get complacent and say that Pink Bollworm has completely gone from the state but hopefully by the first pickings of the season, we can say that we have overcome the infestation to a great extent,” Ingale said.
An economic threshold is the insect’s population level or extent of crop damage at which the value of the crop destroyed exceeds the cost of controlling the pest. The crossing of the threshold means that a sizeable amount of the crop may be lost to the pest. He said cotton is generally sown in 21,000 villages in the state. This year, 39.7 lakh hectare of area has been brought under the cotton cultivation, compared to the last year’s 41.1 lakh hectare. The economic threshold limit is a parameter used to assess the outbreak of the pest.
“This limit is crossed in the 700 villages which are mainly from Marathwada, Vidarbha and north Maharashtra regions earlier. The department had then set up district-level committees comprising local officials in view of the pink bollworm infestation. Maharashtra agriculture commissioner Sachindra Pratap Singh had said that the Department had already swung into action following reports of incidences in some cotton growing regions. The pink bollworm attack on cotton has been reported this year from Akola and Washim districts in Vidarbha and Nanded and Parbhani in Marathawada, Jalgaon in Khandesh.
Last year, Pink Bollworm had caused large-scale damage to the cotton 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. This season, after the crop had completed 60 days, the larvae was seen.
Pink Bollworm is an insect which chews through the cotton lint to feed on the seeds. PBW infestation starts at bud development stage because of which the flowers do not open and often exhibit rosette shape flower. The larvae bore into bolls, feeds on inner content, developing seeds and subsequently affecting the cotton yield. The Commissioner said that the impact has greatly reduced and is now less than 5% on the cotton crop in the state.
The Department had appointed senior officers in all the 20 cotton growing districts of the state to inspect areas and create awareness among farmers on how to deal with the attack. The pheromone traps are cheap and cost merely Rs 50 per piece. Two traps can cover an acre, he said. 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 to control PBW, he said.
In an advisory, the Department has advised farmers to use pheromone traps within 45 days of sowing. If the trap catches a minimum of 8-10 male PBWs per day, then the use of pesticide is highly recommended. The pheromone traps are available for sale at authorised sellers of Agro Industries Development Corporation. As per the advisory, at least two traps must be placed per one acre of cotton farm. The Agriculture Commissioner said that the agricultural universities in the state are slated to carry out survey of PBW with help of pheromone traps installed at farmers and mills.
This year, cotton cultivation has been done on about 37 lakh hectare of land in the state as against the 41 lakh hectare last year, senior officials 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 has brought down the overall cotton plantation figures in the state by 3-4 lakh hectare.
Last month, the Maharashtra Agriculture Department had directed seed companies to pay compensation worth Rs 93 crore to cotton farmers for the damages caused by the attack of Pink Bollworm.
Hearings of some 9 lakh complaints have been completed and around14 lakh complaints have been filed by farmers. The hearings of districts of Amravati division and Beed district are still pending. Insurance companies, National Disaster Relief Fund and seed companies are all part of the compensation process under the Pink Bollworm attack last season. The Department had filed applications from farmers as part of the compensation process and some 14 lakh applications have been received and hearings have been completed for 9 lakh applications mostly in Jalna region.
Accordingly, some 1.55 lakh farmers are expected to receive compensation worth Rs 93 crore for cultivation on 55,000 hectare. Hearings for Akola, Buldhana, Amravati, Washim, and Yavatmal districts in Amravati division and Beed district are yet to be completed and another Rs 3 crore is expected as the compensation.