As many as 700 villages in Maharashtra have officially confirmed that the outbreak of the pink bollworm infestation on cotton crops has crossed the "economic threshold limit", an official from Agriculture department said on August 26.
An economic threshold is the insect's population level or extent of crop damage at which the value of the crop destroyed exceeds the cost of controlling the pest. The crossing of the threshold means that a sizeable amount of the crop may be lost to the pest, according to the official. He said cotton is generally sown in 21,000 villages in the state. "This year, 39.7 lakh hectares of area has been brought under cotton cultivation, compared to last year's 41.1 lakh hectares," he said. "The economic threshold limit is crossed in the 700 villages which are mainly from Marathwada, Vidarbha and north Maharashtra regions," the official said.
He said Agriculture Department has already set up district-level committees comprising local officials in view of the pink bollworm infestation. "The state had produced 372 lakh bales of cotton in year 2017. Going by the outbreak and possible damage to the crops, the production could be around 365 lakh bales this year. There has been an urgent and mass-scale plan that would put a check on possible damage to the plants," he said.
When contacted, State Agriculture Commissioner Sacchindra Pratap Singh said he was closely monitoring the situation. "I am monitoring the daily updates related to cotton crop, as it is one of the important cash crops in the state. We have issued several key instructions to our teams as well as to farmers," he said.
Cotton crop in Telangana hit by extensive rains
Meanwhile, cotton crop in 11 districts of Telangana has been hit by extensive rains. According to official figures, the cotton crop in over 1.30 lakh acres and paddy in about 50,000 acres was hit by the rains. Adilabad and undivided Warangal districts, the two key cotton growing districts in the state, were hit the hardest.
While 11 of the 31 districts were hit by heavy rains, Sangareddy, Medak, Siddipet, Yadadri and Medchal districts remained in the 'deficit' rainfall category. Farmers' unions, however, said cotton crop losses would be far higher as the rains came at the wrong time. They said heavy rains hit the crop at the flowering stage and this could result in heavier losses.
Farmers in the state grew cotton in about 42 lakh acres this kharif, despite losses in the last season due to the virulent attack of pink bollworm. "Losses in Adilabad would be much higher as heavy rains lashed the cotton growing district," Telangana Rythu Sangham leader, Malla Reddy, said. Official figures put the crop losses in Adilabad district at 1.25 lakh acres. "The rains were not well spread out and were not timely. There were either no rains or insufficient rains," he said. Cotton farmers in several areas had to go for second sowing as the monsoon failed them after they sowed the seeds in the beginning of the kharif season. "Heavy rains in a span of 10-14 days would hit them the second time too," Malla Reddy said. Jaipal Reddy, a former leader of the Confederation of Farmers' Association, said farmers faced two diametrically opposite problems. "While some were hit by heavy rains, others in districts such as Nalgonda, Sangareddy and Mahaboobnagar received less rainfall," he said.