September 28, 2021 6:27:59 am
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has demanded that officials of the state agriculture department be held responsible for the lapses which led to the spread of Pink Bollworm disease in the state crippling the cotton crop in several thousand acres.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Kultar Singh Sandhwan, MLA from Kotkapura and chairman of the Kisan Wing of AAP, said that because of distribution of spurious BT cotton seeds and pesticides, the Bollworm disease had spread. “This is a disaster for farmers, cotton crop pickers and those who purchased the crops. There is no doubt that this has happened because there was no check on quality of seeds and pesticides, which had to be monitored by the agriculture department. The officials responsible for bringing this misfortune upon farmers must be made to pay,” said Sandhwan.
Training his guns on CM Charanjit Channi, Sandhwan said the agriculture department officials are pulling wool over the CMs eyes by talking about distribution of pesticides. “The CM kept talking about distributing pesticides to farmers, mainly because the agriculture officials had failed to brief him adequately about the disease. The fact is the worm remains unaffected by pesticides because it enters the bolls and damages the cotton,” he said.
The AAP leader demanded that not only should the cotton farmers be paid compensation for the damage that they have suffered to their crops, but the cotton pickers, who come from the weakest sections of the society, should also get cash for the adverse effect on their livelihoods.
Experts of Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) said that they had already warned about the possibility of a Pink Bollworm spread and that seminars had been held on the topic. An expert in entomology, who did not want to be named, said that the farmers had been warned to be on the lookout for the Pink Bollworm.
Answering a question on the role of BT cotton in the disease he said that the Pink Bollworm had been first observed in South India in BT cotton hybrids and it affected crops in Haryana in 2018, and in 2019 and 2020 it attacked crops in some areas of Bathinda. He added that BT cotton was particularly susceptible to Pink Bollworm, while Fall Armyworm affects maize, paddy and sugarcane.
As per a study ‘Integrated Pest Management of Cotton Crops’ carried out by PAUs regional centre in Faridkot, Pink Bollworm is the most destructive pest of cotton. “The damage is caused in various ways. There is excessive shedding of the attacked fruiting bodies. The attacked young bolls fall prematurely and the older ones which do mature do not contain good lint. The damaged seed-cotton gives a lower ginning percentage, lower oil extraction and inferior spinning quality,” says the study done by Ramesh Arora, Vikas Jindal, Pankaj Rathore, Raman Kumar, Vikram Singh and Lajpat.
Agriculture department officials say measures to tackle the crises vary from deep ploughing of fields to removal of weeds acting as alternate hosts for the pests. Burning the crop is also an alternative but that would cause smog and lead to yet another problem.
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