The Punjab agriculture department claims that improper practices in the use of insecticides, urea and cultivation of okra along with cotton could have contributed to the whitefly menace.
Officials from the agriculture department also claim that farmers who followed correct procedure would have a bumper harvest.
“This year, over 10,000 acres in our district are under okra crop as it gave good prices to farmers last year. However, it is not recommended to grow okra along with cotton as it enhances chances of whitefly attack. Last year, the okra crop was over about 3,000 acres in our district. So, we think this could have played a major role in triggering the whitefly menace,” said Dr Beant Singh, chief agriculture officer of Muktsar.
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Farmers like Jagit Singh Johar are expecting a good harvest. “I sprayed Obran, Dotara and Neem as per recommendations from the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) and had followed integrated pest management. However, I know many farmers had sprayed insecticides Acephate (used for American bollworm attack) mixed with Acetamipride. This is not proper,” he said.
Dr Beant Singh confirmed this.
Urea too is being blamed for the crop damage. “When whitefly was first noticed, many farmers added more urea to the crop thinking that it would save it, but this did not happen,” said Rajwinder Singh, a farmer from Bhagsar village.
The agriculture experts at Muktsar, Bathinda and Fazilka observed that all those farmers who had used excess of urea had their crops affected.
Although when asked, experts said there is no scientific reason which can connect urea usage with white fly attack.
Dealers not checked
Agriculture experts maintain that the improper use of insecticides was the primary reason for today’s whitefly attack in the state.
Chemicals were not checked before they were sold to the farmers by dealers. Farmers claim that if the insecticides were checked well in time, the crops could have been saved.
More than a lakh hectare of the cotton crop is under whitefly attack in Malwa region.