Crop wilting: new battle for Andhra's cotton growers (11/9/2006)

Crop wilting: new battle for Andhra's cotton growers
Financial Express, Posted online: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

HYDERABAD, SEPT 11: After the cattle-battle issue with Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh, farmers are now facing another battle - wilting.

In Nalgonda district, farmers are uprooting Bt cotton plants as they are dying due to wilt. It is learnt that in Bhongir mandal of Nalgonda, the farmers have uprooted Bt cotton plants from 41 acres out of the 51 acres planted. This has created a panic among cotton farmers across the state as it has started spreading to the surrounding farms too.

Farmers complain that the plants are slowly dying because the root system is severely 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 best use of the remaining part of the agricultural season by sowing coriander with the onset of rains, PV Satheesh, convenor, AP Coalition In Defence of Diversity, said.

The state's farmers had already spent about Rs 5,000 - Rs 7,000 per acre on various operations like land preparation, seed and fertiliser costs and plant protection costs to save their crops from sucking pests. However, the cause for wilting during this season is yet to be ascertained, pointed out agriculture department officials.

According to MA Qayum, retired joint director of agriculture, who visited these fields in Nalgonda to assess the extent of damage, the disease is caused by a soil borne fungus called 'Rhizoctonia', which affects the root system causing the plant to wilt from top to down. Hitherto, cotton farmers in the state had never faced this problem, he added.

Further, a team of agricultural scientists from the Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University visited some of the affected fields. The team confirmed the presence of low-to-moderate incidence of thrips in Bt cotton fields and dry root rot and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) on cotton fields.

The team even anticipated spreading of the BLB and root rot in cotton with the receipt of rains, and provided some immediate remedial measures. However, these measures are yet to boost confidence among farmers.


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