Campaign launched to tackle pink boll worm and save Bt Cotton crop

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Campaign launched to tackle pink boll worm and save Bt Cotton crop

Nirmesh Singh

New Delhi | 09 Sep 2017

All-out multi-level campaign #SecureFarmer2SecureIndia has been launched to tackle the dreaded pink boll worm attack that has been destroying the Bt cotton crop across India. Cotton is grown in 11 states across India – Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Odisha and Tami Nadu.

Over the years, pink boll worm (PBW) has developed resistance to Bt cotton and during the last cotton season alone the pest has caused a crop loss ranging from 20% to 25% across the states. Some farmers even lost the entire crop as it had to be uprooted due to severe damage. This year too Pink bollworm has been reported to have attacked standing crop in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Consequently, analysts have started revising estimates of cotton output growth for the current season to 4-5 per cent now from 10 per cent earlier on a sharp increase in acreage.

The loss could even go up, which could lead to major agrarian crisis, if timely checks are not implemented, experts have said.

To overcome this problem, the union government has recommended a unique RIB concept (Refugia In Bag) wherein 25 grams of non-Bt Cotton seed is mixed with 450 grams of Bt Cotton seeds. This new RIB system make farmers plant non-Bt plants compulsorily as seeds are mixed inside bag. Such non-Bt plants can host PBW wild insects (which are not resistant to Bt) and prevent resistance buildup in PBW by mating with mutant insects (which have developed resistance) whose progeny again lose the resistance.

“The field staff of various seed companies has been working proactively working with the farmers to impress upon them on the need to go for RIB and save their main crop,” said National Seeds Association of India (NSAI) president P Prabhakar Rao, who is also the Chairman and Managing Director of Nuziveedu Seeds Limited, the largest cotton seed company in the country. “This is part of our multi-pronged campaign – #SecureFarmer2SecureIndia – and we have made a beginning with cotton”, he said.

NSAI has also represented to the Union Agriculture Ministry to popularize an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme which involves crop rotation of Cotton with other crops, biological control of insects with the help of insects and parasites that devour pink boll worms and destroying of crop residue and trash in the field.

Explaining the importance of IPM, Mr N M Sharma, managing director of Gujarat Cotton Cooperative Federation, said the pupa of PBW which is a monophagous pest that feeds only on Cotton, has a tendency, where its pupa intelligently hides underground during winters and then emerges  out to attack Cotton crop with vengeance.

Mr S S Bainade, former professor at Marathwada Agriculture University, said, “The problem occurs during dry spells and when we do not receive adequate rains”.