|Press release on Bt cotton wilting (8/9/2006)|
To The News Editor
Farmers in Nalgonda, who planted Bt Cotton with their own hands in their fields have started uprooting them, unable to watch the plants dying due to severe wilt.
This was bound to happen. Since the beginning of Bt cotton cultivation in AP, every year disasters have visited it. In the first year, it was a disaster, yielding 35% less than the non Bt cotton even while costing four times more than the non Bt cotton. In the third year, new diseases spread for the soils and the plant. Cattle which grazed Bt cotton plants started dying.
And this year, Bt plants have started wilting forcing farmers to harden their heart and uproot them.
In village Mustyalapally in the Bhongir mandal of Nalgonda farmers have uprooted Bt cotton from 41 acres out of the 51 acres planted. Nearly 80% of the planted area. Besides Mustyalpalli, the disease has spread to nearby vilages of Cheemala Konduru, Sikendernagar, Cholleru and Moota Kinduru villages of Bhongir and Yadagirigutta mandals, spreading panic among farmers.
Farmers complain that, the plants are slowly dying one after another because the root system is severy decomposed without any secondary and tertiary roots on the main root system. Even the bolls formed on these wilted plants did not bear any seeds. Hence farmers decided to uproot this crop and make the the best use of the remaining part of the agricultural season by sowing coriander with the onset of rains.
The Bt cotton farmers who had alredy spent Rs 5000 to 7000 per acre on various operations like land preparation, seed & fertilizer costs, and plant protection costs to save their crops from sucking pests. Initially they felt the problem was due to prolonged drought in the month of July for about 27 days. But to their surprise, the problem intensified after they had received rains in August month.
Mr M A Qayum, formerly a retired Joint Director of Agriculture who has visited these fields in Mustyalapalli to assess the extent of damage, says that the disease is caused by a soil borne fungus called "Rhizoctonia", which severly affects the root system causing the plant to wilt from top to down. Hitherto cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh had never faced this problem. Even the uprooted Bt cotton stalks are not relished by the cattle. Last year shepherds of the area had complained that more than 10,000 sheep had died by grazinging the stubbles in the Bt cotton fields after the final harvest.
On the invitation of APCIDD, a team of Agricultural Scientists from Acharya NG Ranga Agricutltural University from Lam farm had visited the fields in Cholleru village on 25th July 2006. The team confirmed the presence of low to moderate incidence of thrips in Bt cotton fields and dry root rot and Bacterial Leaf Blight on cotton fields. They even anticipated spreading of the BLB and root rot in cotton with the receipt of rains and recommended drenching of areas where the symptom were observed with Copper Oxy Chloride solution @ 3g/litre and spraying of 3g of COC + 100mg of Streptocyclin in one litre of water thrice at 15 days interval.
In the wake the reports from other countries that point to the toxic effect of the root exudates from the Bt cotton plants on the beneficial soil fauna, APCIDD demads that the Government of Andhra Pradesh order a detailed scientific inquiry into these disease, and order the Bt seed producers to compensate the loss to the farmers, soil and the environment.
The APCIDD warns that any delay in responding to this situation would lead to severe loss to cotton growing farmers.