The Punjab government and the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) are making joint efforts to check attack by pests, especially whitefly, on cotton crop. PAU vice chancellor BS Dhillon recently held a meeting with government officials and experts to take stock of the whitefly attack on cotton in the Bathinda, Abohar and Fazilka districts.
Dhillon has advised the university faculty to help farmers in knowing the difference among insects, so that a particular insect could be controlled properly. According to PAU director of research Navtej Singh Bain, a prime motive of the university is to ensure that population of pests does not cross the economic threshold, which disturbs the farm economy.
The university has also announced contact numbers for affected farmers to get in touch with experts, according to media reports. The area under cotton cultivation in the state this year is 3.86 lakh hectare compared to 2.86 lakh hectare in 2016 and 3.36 lakh hectare in 2015. Bt cotton varieties, which are popular because of better availability of seeds and higher income, have also proved defenceless against whitefly attack.
The intensity of whitefly attack was found to be relatively higher where the cotton crop touches paddy fields. At some places, cotton fields were deprived of irrigation due to more attention to paddy cultivation by farmers.
State agriculture director Jasbir Singh said 26 of the 36 samples of pesticides against whitefly collected from various companies have failed tests and one company has been blacklisted as well. Nearly 1,000 villages are being covered by a government awareness campaign on the issue, according to Sukhdev Singh, deputy director, cotton, in the state.