With the cotton season in Maharashtra is about to end, this year also saw the continual attacks of Pink Boll Worms (PBW) on the crop.
In order to break the life cycle of PBW, the local Krishi Vigyan Kendras and Agriculture Universities have recommended farmers to terminate their cotton crop in Maharashtra by December.
However, the crops are still in the fields in several cotton-growing districts. According to the State Sowing Report on October 10 for kharif season, the area under the crop had reached 42.83 lakh hectares, while the average is 41.83 lakh hectares. In major districts such as Yavatmal, cotton was planted on 4.65 lakh hectares and 5.30 lakh hectares in Jalgaon.
Agriculture Scientist and Entomologist at the Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Yavatmal, Pramod Magar said that despite the advisories farmers continue to keep their cotton crop till January or February, which helps the PBW maintain the life cycle till next sowing season (May-end or early June).
Breaking the cycle
The insect population keeps increasing leading to attacks in the next season. Therefore terminating the crop is essential to end attacks of PBW. A gap needs to be created in the feeding cycle of the pests, he said.
Magar said that in a PBW-infested plant, some cotton bowls remain partially destroyed with some cotton left in the bowls, therefore, the farmers maintain such diseased plants in the fields with a desire to get some residual cotton. Due to such practices, the population keeps on getting built up leading to attacks in the next season.
An official at the Maharashtra Agriculture Commissioner office said that almost one-third of the crop is still standing in Yavatmal. Ideally, the farmers should have been in the final stages of removing the crop and preparing the soil for planting summer crops. However, labour availability is also a problem in the Vidarbha region.
In the main cotton-growing areas of Khandesh, Vidarbha and Marathwada regions in Maharashtra, winter sets by October.
The difference between night and day temperature is 10-15°C, which is most favourable for the infestation of PBW, Magar said.
Veteran cotton scientist and Vice-President of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, CD Mayee, told BusinessLine that if the PBW infestation cycle has to be interrupted then the crop must be removed from the field by December or by latest January 15. In Punjab there are fewer incidents of PBW attacks because farmers after second picking of cotton remove the crop and make way for other crops such as wheat.
After January 15, all the cotton plant stalks must be removed and destroyed or sent to biomass makers for making briquettes.
When the temperature increases in Maharashtra after January, the sun helps in breaking the PBW in the soil, Mayee said.
On the other hand, a cotton farmer from Yavatmal, Milind Damle said that the farmers continue to hold their crop right till January and February because they can pick the cotton for the fourth or the fifth time. Residual cotton also has economic value, he said.