Early in April 2019, farmers in the cotton-growing district of Akola saw state’s agriculture officers, Akola Zilla Parishad as well as representatives of agriculture universities and seed companies descending to their villages to talk about the pink bollworm (PBW). Ganesh Nanote, a cotton grower from the village of Nimbhara in Akola’s Barshitakli taluka, was present for one such programme where officers talked about how cotton growers should tweak their practices to the save their crop from PBW infestation.
“They spoke about the need for integrated pest management. The main component of which was to change our normal sowing time from the third week of May to the second week of June — that is, only after the monsoon rains pick up,” said this farmer who grows cotton over 20 acres of his holding.
Muralidhar Ingle, the agriculture development officer of Akola Zilla Parishad, pointed out that their office, in collaboration with the other departments and universities, also raised awareness about usage of pheromone traps, lures (contraption with female pheromones to trap male moths) etc.
In 2017-18, PBW infestation had led to high losses for farmers. “Since then we have virtually waged a war against this pest, arming our farmers with the necessary information to control this pest,” said Ingle. The results have been “satisfying” — there have been hardly any significant episode of infestation.
Narayan Shisode, Director of Agriculture (extension and training) in Maharashtra, said that between 2017 and 2019, of the 3,924 villages under observation, 1,957 villages had reported infestation above the economic threshold limit (a measure of pest population per acre beyond which active pest control measures need to be taken to prevent economic losses). However, till November this year, just 100 villages have reported infestation above the economic threshold limit.
Shisode mentioned that their outreach saw the department undertaking a major awareness drive with information chariots, posters, pamphlets etc being distributed at the villages to educate the farmers. The literature made a strong case in favour of integrated pest management.