Pink bollworm (PBW) infestation is seen spelling trouble for cotton growers in the Northern States of Punjab and Haryana. The PBW infestation has been reported at the early stage of the cotton crop cycle in the districts such as Hisar and Sirsa in Haryana and Bhatinda and Faridkot in Punjab among others.

Cotton sowing, which starts in mid-April in these States, is almost complete and the infestation is observed in areas where the crop was sown early and has reached the flowering stage. However, details of the total area infested are not available.

Haryana and Punjab faced heavy infestation of PBW in the late-stage cropping cycle last year. The latest outbreak is seen as remnant of the previous year’s infestation, experts said. “PBW is being observed in parts of Haryana and Punjab, but it will be managed,” said Y G Prasad, Director, ICAR - Central Institute for Cotton Research in Nagpur.

“PBW is a cryptic pest and generally it is not detected early. But as farmers become aware, they are able to see the flower infestation early. Generally, the early stage infestation at the flowering stage is not a serious one. Only 30-40 per cent of the worms reach the boll stage. Farmers need not be scared. Once they become aware, they can take up spraying. We are recommending spraying of general schedule insecticides, neem-based sprays and botanicals. Farmers are also being advised to install pheromone traps and monitor the moth catches and observe rosette flower damages,” Prasad said.

Awareness campaign

Further, the awareness campaigns carried out ahead of the sowing season by various agencies including CICR and State departments have helped the farmers to detect the pest early, Prasad said.

“The early infestation of devastating PBW in cotton in Punjab and Haryana is a serious concern for farmers and the cotton economy of northern India. PBW can show a mysterious pattern in the irrigated, short duration and highly-intensive cotton-growing North zone, which is different from dryland cotton-growing Central and Southern zones,” said Bhagirath Choudhary, Founder Director, South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC).

“Northern cotton-growing States’ agriculture departments, state agriculture universities and Krishi Vigyan Kendras must be vigilant and carefully monitor its intensity and spread, and issue timely economic threshold level (ETL)-based advisory to suppress pest population,” Choudhary said.

Area a tad lower

Cotton acreage in these two Northern States is marginally lower than last year. In Punjab, the cotton acreage is about 2.43 lakh hectares (lh) and likely to go up to 2.48 lh, but lower than last year’s 2.51 lh and the targeted 4 lh, said Tarun Satsangi, AGM - Research at Origo E-Mandi. Similarly, in Haryana, the acreage this year is 3 per cent lower at 6.28 lh.

“The marginal decline in acreage and the outbreak of PBW in Punjab and Haryana is unlikely to have any major impact on the overall cotton output as we are expecting the total acreage in the country to go up by 5 per cent with an anticipated rise in acreages in major producing States of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana,” Satsangi said.