Whitefly Menace: Agriculture dept blames ‘susceptible’ cotton varietieshttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/chandigarh/whitefly-menace-agriculture-dept-blames-susceptible-cotton-varieties/

Whitefly Menace: Agriculture dept blames ‘susceptible’ cotton varieties

Punjab agriculture department director Mangal Singh Sandhu said PAU had been asked to do a detailed exercise to list the number of such varieties being used by farmers.

A day after Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Vidhan Sabha Sunil Jakhar sought an inquiry into the use of “ineffective pesticide” by the agriculture department, the latter blamed cotton varieties that are “not recommended” either by it or the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, for whitefly attack on crop in the Malwa belt.

Punjab agriculture department director Mangal Singh Sandhu said PAU had been asked to do a detailed exercise to list the number of such varieties being used by farmers.

“There are more than 30 varieties of cotton seed sold in Punjab. Nearly 15 per cent of these are not recommended by agriculture department and the PAU. These varieties are susceptible to pest attacks. In a majority of the cases where cotton crop have come under the whitefly attack, the farmers has sown these non-recommended varieties. The problem is that the varieties are approved by the Centre but not recommended by us. Farmers buy such varieties as they are cheaper,” Sandhu said. “We have written to the PAU director (research) to find out all such non-recommended varieties that have been used by the farmers and resulted in whitefly attack on the crop.”

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“We will prepare a list and seek a ban on these in Punjab,” he added. “Due to susceptible varieties, other varieties sown around also get affected,” said Sandhu.

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Cotton has been sown over an area of 4.5 lakh hectares in the state and according to Sandhu preliminary estimates suggest that 10-12 per cent of cotton had come under whitefly attack. The crop under attack is in vegetative state and whitefly attack on the crop is set to hit the yield hard.

Sandhu said farmers were “using mix of pesticides as directed by sellers” and in the process, the pesticide mix was not effective.

“Also, farmers should not spray their fields with pesticides between 10 am and 4 pm as it also kills the (crop) friendly pests,” said Sandhu.