Hit hard by pink bollworm pest that devastated standing Bt cotton crops on around 60,000 hectares in Raichur district in the last kharif season, many farmers are turning to alternative crops. As a result, cotton growing areas are expected to shrink by about 35%. As per data provided by the Agriculture Department, cotton was grown on around 1 lakh hectares in the district in 2014-15 and 60,000 hectares in 2015-16. The area of cultivation is expected to further diminish to around 40,000 hectares in the next kharif season. In fact, if the district receives early and good rainfall, an even larger number could switch from cotton to red gram and bajra, bringing the area of cotton cultivation down to less than 30,000 hectares, said Kiran Kumar, Joint Director of Agriculture.
The Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) is also making a serious attempt to wean farmers away from Bt cotton crop. KRRS State president Chamarasa Malipatil had, in a press conference recently, openly given a call to farmers not to grow Bt cotton. "The soil and weather conditions in Raichur district are ideal for both cotton and red gram cultivation. Farmers used to traditionally grow red gram. The pink bollworm threat has encouraged them to return to it again," Malipatil said.
Raichur farmers suffer 278.72-cr loss due to failed BT cotton: report
Amid protest against the genetically modified organism industry, a study conducted by a Mysuru-based non-profit organisation has revealed that farmers in Raichur district have incurred a loss of a whopping Rs 278.72 crore due to the failure of BT cotton crop. The report titled "BT Hatti", prepared by Akshara Krishi Foundation, said BT cotton crop was sown in 1.5 lakh acres in the district and the crop has failed in 80% of the area. "Raichur district has been severely affected by BT cotton crop failure. There have also been instances of farmer suicides," K P Suresha, managing trustee of the foundation, said. He said the report was prepared after several meetings and extensive discussions with BT cotton growers, farmer leaders, Bharat Gnana Vignana Samiti and mediapersons. "We don't claim that it is a comprehensive report. But it will become a supportive document to take the movement against BT cotton forward and create awareness among farmers. It will be released in the form of a book in Dharwad during the May Sahitya Mela to be held on May 28 and 29," he added.
Manjunath Holalu, who was also part of the study, observed that most of the crops in Raichur district failed as it was attacked by pink bollworm disease much against the claims of companies which sold BT cotton seeds. "The companies had claimed the seeds being resistant to all the four bollworm diseases that normally affect BT cotton including the pink bollworm. The same has been published on the packets of the seeds sold to the farmers," he said. Another author P Vasu said that a team of agriculture scientists of the University of Agriculture Sciences, Raichur, in its report to the government has said that pink bollworm affected 60-70% of BT cotton crop in irrigated area and 40- 50% in rainfed areas. But in reality, 80% of the crop was lost due to pink bollworm," he added. He said the report will be published in English and shared online for the benefit of people all over the world.
Agriculture Dept. begins sanitising Bt cotton fields
In a bid to check the menace of pink bollworm pest, which destroyed over 80% of Bt cotton crop on 2.5 lakh acres in Raichur district, the Agriculture Department has started sanitising cotton fields. Bt cotton residue is being burnt on the field to ensure that eggs and larvae of the dangerous pest are destroyed before the beginning of the next kharif season. Cotton growers have already destroyed infected cotton stalks on their own, and officials are now visiting villages and encouraging them to burn the residue stalks in their presence. "Destroying cotton stalks and tilling the fields deep to expose the soil to sun are important measures for destroying eggs and larvae of pink bollworm. These precautions will drastically reduce the pest population in the next season," N. Saraswathi, Joint Director of Agriculture (in-charge) said. "In the first phase, we took up sanitisation of cotton ginning mills. The officials from the Agriculture Department, along with scientists from University of Agricultural Sciences, Raichur, visited cotton ginning mills and ensured that the residues, including cotton seeds, were destroyed," said R.G. Sandeep, Assistant Director of Agriculture, Raichur.