The cotton crop in Maharashtra is facing a double whammy of pink bollworm (PBW) attack and boll rot because of excess monsoon rains. In some districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada region, the preliminary survey suggests that the crop damaged has crossed the Economic Threshold Level (ETL).
ETL means the pest density has risen to such a level that spraying should be taken up immediately to prevent the pest population from increasing further.
District Collector of Wardha, Vivek Bhimanwar said over 50% of the cotton crop has been damaged in the district. Still, these are preliminary estimates; the losses could be as high as 80%. Orders have been given to the Agriculture and Revenue Departments to start damage assessment. The Cotton Corporation of India has also been asked to begin procuring the undamaged cotton from farmers immediately, he said.
Cotton framer, Gangadhar Muthe from Wardha said that this year he had planted almost 98% cotton over 40 acres of farmland. But the crop has been badly damaged by pink bollworm. The excess of rainfall has led to the plant growing to almost seven feet, but the bolls, holding the cotton have been rotten as excess moisture has triggered a fungal attack on the crops. The farmers cannot enter the fields and spray fungicides and pesticides due to high and dense vegetative growth. This year the crop loss could be 50-80%, he lamented.
Farming expert and cotton farmer from Vidarbha, Milind Damle said that crop losses are pushing farmers to sell their cotton to private traders at Rs 5,000 per quintal (100 kg) while the MSP is Rs 5,825 per quintal.
Agricultural scientist and entomologist, Pramod Magar who works for the Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) in Yavatmal district, said that since the crop losses have crossed ETL, farmers should use fungicides such as copper oxychloride along with streptocycline for boll rot management. For pink bollworm management farmers should avoid mixing pesticides and fungicides along with other agrochemicals, he said.
It must be remembered that in 2017 several farmers and farm workers had died, as they had used a deadly cocktail of pesticides and insecticides. Such combinations, while spraying in the fields create aerosols, which are toxic to humans. The toxins cause respiratory distress and impact the nervous system.