Stressing that timely intervention is key to prevent crop damage in case of pink bollworm (PBW) pest as seen in cotton crop in northern India, an industry expert has suggested a collaborative government-private approach to increase the awareness as solution is available if the pest is detected in time.

“Solutions are available. What is lacking is the awareness about the PBW among the farmers,” NK Rajavelu, CEO of Godrej Agrovet’s crop protection division, told businessline.

Explaining further, he said farmers normally come to know about PBW impact only when they start seeing the boll bursting around the harvesting time. But the point is in PBW, the adult moth lays the egg during the flowering time itself inside the flower. So, the eggs once they hatch in the flower, the flower closes and becomes a boll. So, they start getting into larvae everything inside and when the boll burst then the PBW impact is seen. So, the awareness of this has to be communicated to the farmers at the time of flowering stage itself, Rajavelu said.

Asked who should take the responsibility of educating the farmers, he said both private companies and the government agencies. “The extension arm of the government, for instance KVKs should have programmes especially for the cotton areas, how to really monitor the PBW attack from the beginning. Because it’s very difficult to identify the eggs inside the flower,” he said.

Further, he mentioned that there are some monitoring mechanisms like the moth activities available which farmers can observe. “If the moth activity is there then you start spraying the chemicals or put pheromones around the cotton areas even before the pest attacks becomes serious,” he said.

Output hit

Though it is not that PBW appears every year, still it is imperative to help the farmers to understand that there are solutions available right from chemicals to pheromones, Rajavelu said. “If these are not used at the proper time, at the flowering time, then nobody can help. So that awareness programme has to be enhanced in terms of how to educate the farmers,” he said.

Cotton crop in many parts of the northern region got damaged in 2023 due to deficient rain and pink bollworm pest to the extent of 65 per cent in Haryana and Punjab and 80-90 per cent in Rajasthan. The Agriculture Ministry has estimated cotton production this year to be lower by 6 per cent at 31.66 million bales (of 170 kg each) from 33.66 million bales in 2022.

He is also hopeful that technologies like internet of things (IOT) and drone definitely will help in the longer run, but “today I do not think we have that type of technology. Probably there is an opportunity for companies like us and even government to work on that to help the farmers.”