As the pink bollworm infestation spreads in cotton plants in North India, stakeholders including the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), State agricultural universities and private players including the South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC) are taking up large-scale demonstration of the use of technologies such as mating disruption and pheromone traps to tackle the dreaded pest.

“We are trying to demonstrate the mating disruption technologies this season in North India. There will be some 30-40 demonstrations from different organisations,” said Y G Prasad, Director, Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR). The idea is to arrange for the protection throughout the season — from the flowering stage to harvest, he said.

Innovative technique

Mating disruption is an innovative pheromone-based technique that interferes with the reproductive cycle of PBW in such a way that the population is significantly reduced and crop damage is minimised. The Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) had approved the technology in the integrated pest management (IPM) strategies for controlling PBW in India for the first time in 2019-20.

As part of this, CICR and the other players have come out with PBKnot, a solid metric dispenser rope which can be easily tagged to the cotton plants. The PBKnot charges the surrounding air with Gossyplure, a pheromone scent that confuses the male adults preventing them from finding and mating with female adults and reducing the number of eggs laid and controlling the PBW population.

“The mating disruption has emerged as a powerful tool to manage pests such as PBW,” said Bhagirath Choudhary, Director, South Asia Biotechnology Centre (SABC), Jodhpur, which is implementing a large-scale “Project Bandhan” to control the spread of PBW across 16 districts of seven major cotton-growing States this kharif.

Relying on chemical spraying

PBW has emerged as a key pest affecting cotton over almost 12 million hectares annually in India. The current methods of controlling pink bollworms primarily rely on chemical spraying. However, it is increasingly becoming difficult to achieve a high degree of suppression due to the non-existence of highly effective insecticides leading to the PBW population being well-established across different cotton-growing zones, Choudhry said.

Project Bandhan will be implemented in some 19 clusters each over 62.5 acres covering a total area of 1,200 acres across the country in partnership with Ambuja Cement Foundation, PI Foundations, Agrovision Foundation, State Agriculture Universities, KVKs and local organisations under the technical guidance of ICAR-Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur.

The tagging of mating disruption PBknot has been completed on 469 acres in the northern zone, where over 250 farmers have been trained about PBW and tagging of mating disruption PBKnot technology and installation of pheromone traps for monitoring purposes. The project is being implemented in Bhatinda, Mansa and Fazilka districts of Punjab covering some 193 acres. In Haryana, the demonstration project is being implemented in Sirsa and Fatehabad districts of Haryana covering some 152 acres. Similarly in Rajasthan, the PBKnot project is being implemented in Hanumangarh and Ganganagar districts in some 124 acres.

Found effective

The PBW, which has surfaced early in the kharif season of North, typically has a short life cycle and can multiply 4-5 generations in a crop cycle, potentially threatening cotton from early stage, flower, green bolls and cotton locules, affecting affect cotton lint quality, Choudhary said.

SABC, which had implemented the Project Bandhan in the last kharif season in the Central Zone has found it to be very effective in controlling the pest. “The outcome of the field demonstration over 300 acres was encouraging as it recorded 90 per cent reduction in losses due to pink bollworm and registered yield increase by 1.5 to 2 quintals of cotton per acre. Moreover, the percentage of flower and locule damage was reduced significantly,” Choudhary added.