Agri Business

Bollworm found in cotton in Maharashtra

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on July 31, 2019 Published on July 30, 2019

Experts believe early sowing to be responsible for the pink bollworm attack

Field study by private crop analysts finds pest infestation on flowers in two regions

The nightmare is back for cotton growers in Maharashtra. Going by reports from private crop analysts from a recent crop survey in Vidarbha and north-western part of the State, cotton plant flowers have been found infested by pink bollworm.

In a field survey conducted last week, pest infestation was found in 8-10 farms in Akola and 16 farms in Dhule district.

‘Not alarming’

“This is not an alarming situation, but surely a warning for cotton growers. Out of our surveyed farms, about 5 per cent area was found to be infested. Bollworm that attacks flowers is different from the one that attacks on the bolls, but is equally damaging if left unattended,” said Manish Daga of CottonGuru, a cotton growers’ network.

Pink bollworm attack on cotton bolls is considered more dangerous. They survive on the fibre and seeds inside the cotton boll.

The reduced cotton crop of 312 lakh bales (each of 170 kg) for the season 2018-19, believed to be the lowest in over a decade, is partially attributed to infestations in some growing regions.

CICR unaware

According to scientists at the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) the pink bollworms attack the cotton plant during the bud formation stage and the flowering stage. As the boll grows, the pests go inside the boll. However, the scientists were unaware of such infestations in the two regions.

Daga said the affected farms in Dhule were sown as early as on May 30, the earliest sowing in western India. That perhaps made the crop vulnerable to worm attacks.

“The affected farms in Akola, however, were sown a month later. So, we found this to be a serious matter because in two different places under two different sowing conditions and agro-climatic regions, there is the same pest attack. We think it is a warning sign,” said Daga.

Preventive measures

The farmers are suggested to install pheromone traps in the fields to contain the spread of the worm. Also, there are other ways such as spraying available.

This year, the Union Agriculture Ministry has projected kharif cotton sowing at 109 lakh hectares as on July 26, against the normal sowing of 121 hectares. Last year's cotton sowing was estimated at 126.44 lakh hectares.

However, experts believe early cotton sowing to be responsible for pink bollworm attack. The worm survives on cotton and develops during the high temperature of summer.

With increased access to irrigation for cotton cultivation, farmers increasingly started to take the crop beyond the traditional period of June to December.

The agriculture scientists had repeatedly asked farmers to wait for rains before sowing cotton.

Daga stated that while the government and the stakeholders have already been warned about the issue, a second field survey will be conducted next week.

Published on July 30, 2019
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