The cotton season is almost over in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, but farmers, especially in areas such as Yavatmal, who have resorted to the Ratoon method of cropping cotton, have observed about 20-40% pink bollworm infestation in their fields. The exact area of the infestation is being estimated by the Maharashtra government.
In Ratoon cropping method, farmers don’t remove the plants, but continue to take a smaller crop on the same area, which adds to their income. A Ratoon crop only gives one third or one-fourth of the regular yield.
According to senior government official, due to the Ratoon cropping method, pink bollworms are surviving and thriving in the region. Traditionally cotton has been a six-month crop, which is planted in May and June, and harvested by December, but due to the introduction of BT seeds, the life of a six-month crop has increased to 10-12 months.
It has been observed that due to the Ratoon cropping method, the dormant larvae of pink bollworm survive in the cotton seeds after harvest, and when the time is right, again enter the fields.
“Usually cotton plants get infested by October, but Ratoon cropping has led to the plant being attacked even in July. If farmers continue to use such practices, then they will have to bid goodbye to BT cotton seeds in some years,” the official said.