Cotton growers in Maharashtra are expecting a good crop as pink bollworm, the dreaded crop infestation, is relatively down this time.
Till September 11, out of the 43.81 lakh hectares of cotton area, infestation was reported over just 0.39 lakh hectares. In fact, this season, whitefly attack has been more virulent than pink bollworm on cotton areas.
Pink bollworm had wrecked havoc on the cotton crop in Maharashtra in the 2017 season, with farmers reporting huge losses. The state agriculture department had since then taken up extensive outreach programs to inculcate integrated pest management (IPM). IPM practices had discouraged early sowing and also talked about usage of pheromone traps (contraptions which trap the male moth by usage of ‘lures’, which have the female pheromone smeared on them).
The outreach has seen usage of information chariots, pamphlets etc. to educate the farmers about the pest and methods to control it.
With the first picking of the crop to start within the next 15 days, farmers have so far not reported any major infestation of the worm. Infestation above the economic threshold limit (ETL) has been reported in only 61 villages. The number of villages above the ETL affected by Jassid/Hoppers is much higher — 100.
ETL is the measure of pest population density above which pest control measures have to be initiated to prevent economic losses. This level varies pest to pest, and for cotton, preventive measures are to be initiated if more than 10 moths are caught in the pheromone for three consecutive nights. This was reported only in 61 villages in the state this year. Pink bollworm infestations are noticed from 45-50 days of sowing.
Dr AK Kolage, cotton agronomist at the Cotton Improvement Center of Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth, Rahuri, also talked about relatively milder attack of the pest this time. “IPM practices have been adopted, which were well published by the agriculture department. This has helped in controlling the pest he said,” he said.
While the crop condition has been satisfactory, Avinash Bihani, a cotton ginner and oil presser from Parbhani in Marathwada, said there have been pockets where the crop has suffered due to moisture stress. “Barring such pockets, the crop is good and we expect a good yield this year,” he said.
With a bumper crop in the offing, the price of kapas (raw unginned cotton) has seen a steady decline. Concerns are being raised about the prices once cotton starts arriving in the markets.