India Interior

Out, out, destructive pest

Nitin Jugran Bahuguna | Updated on October 02, 2020

A mass trapping experiment is on in Maharashtra to save cotton crop from pink bollworm

Cotton farmers in Maharashtra have been in distress over the past three years as severe attacks of pink bollworm (PBW) pest on their crops have led to extensive damage and loss of income.

Anil Abasaheb Gavhane, 35, of Hiswan Khurd village, is amongst thousands of cotton farmers in Jalna district to have suffered huge losses due to large-scale PBW infestation. “PBW attacks have been a major issue for the past three years. I lost 25 per cent of my yield in the three acres I had devoted to cotton cultivation.” Vittal Kaduba Wakhare, 40, of Nivdunga village reported 30-40 per cent damage to his total output over the past two years. Says Kishore Shivaji Nagve, 29, of Wanadgaon village, “I lost 15 quintals of cotton last year, five quintals the year before.”

To counter PBW infestation, which has severely hampered cotton cultivation in the State, an innovative project was recently launched by Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK), Jalna, a farm science centre of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), with support from WWF-India.

They developed a trap design to understand the impact of PBW attacks and, in a pilot demonstration, a total of 7,500 pheromone (chemical that acts as hormones which attract insects) traps were installed at a density of 10 traps per acre in 750 acres of cotton area in Wanadgaon village. The aim was to ascertain the number of PBW moths trapped, followed by management recommendations, including reduction in spray applications. KVK provided the pheromone traps to farmers in the village. Following instructions, Wakhare set the traps at a height of one foot above the cotton sapling, using 10 traps per acre or four traps in one row. “I did not realise that the traps are more effective when placed closer together. Earlier, I used only two traps in one acre,” he says.

Describing the venture as the first large-scale one of its kind in the country, KVK scientist Ajay Mitkri says after installation of 7,500 traps, damage to crops went down dramatically to 5-6 per cent. “After this success, around 2.5 lakh pheromone traps were purchased by farmers in 600 villages in the district,” he says. A single trap costs ₹50, the Maharashtra government gives subsidy.

Tulsiram Nagve, 42, of Wanadgaon village says he sowed his saplings late last year and after a month-and-a-half installed the traps. Earlier Nagve had to apply pesticide sprays at least six times but now only twice. “I saved ₹6,000 as a result of reduced pesticide spraying .”

Kishore Nagve has learnt an important lesson from the project. “During cotton picking time, the life cycle of PBW increases four-fold and if we delay in our picking the PBW’s life cycle increases. But last year, I did two timely pickings and collected 27 quintals of cotton. I saved about ₹5,000 by reducing pesticide spray applications on my five-acre field.”

The success of this experiment has made KVK scientists realise that the method is ideal to control PBWs.

The writer is a freelancer based in Dehradun

Published on October 02, 2020

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