|Bt cotton has lost its charm in Punjab (17/7/2007)|
NOTE: Punjab's the one Indian state where Bt cotton has repeatedly been claimed a big success. Once again, though, any initial reductions in pesticide use are being undermined by growing problems with secondary pests - exactly the pattern pinpointed by research on Bt cotton cultivation in China.
INDIA: Bt cotton has lost its charm in Punjab
Bt cotton which was introduced in Punjab as a solution to the American Ballworm problem faced by farmers, has lost its charm. The mealy bug attack has taken away Bt cotton's glory as the savior of the farmers.
Even though the damage is not much in terms of acreage, the spread of the attack has made the Punjab Agricultural University and Punjab State Department of Agriculture to take notice of it.
B S Sidhu, Director, Agriculture, says, "We are concerned as the attack is severe than last year. While it may not have affected a large number of farmers, the damage levels are very high."
Sidhu says, "We are advising farmers to use two-prong strategy kill the congress grass and at the same time use chemical sprays for mealy bugs."
As per the data collected by the State Department of Agriculture from Talwandi Sabo block in Bathinda, Abohar in Ferozepur, Lambi and Gidderbaha are the worst-affected areas.
Dr N S Butter, head of the Department of Entomology, PAU, says, "Prior to the introduction of BT cotton, we used to spray the crop with chemicals which killed these pests. Now as the pest umbrella has been lifted because Bt cotton does not need so many sprays, these pests are making no effect."
Mealy bug, as per PAU experts, thrives on weeds and the simplest way of keeping them away is to clear the wastelands. However, with the present attack in the state, controlling the weeds has become difficult task, as the bug will shift to other crops.
Dr N S Butter says that "The problem we are facing is that pesticide dealers are misleading the farmers and selling them chemicals which have little effect on the bug. We have formed two teams that are regularly working in eight districts of the cotton belt. We are trying to attack the spots of sites and advising the farmers how to save their crops."
When asked why PAU didnt think of this attack when it was rooting for Bt cotton as a panacea for Punjab farmers' problems, Dr Butter says, "The problem that time was only American Ballworm. At that time there was no mealy bug. With chemicals, we will be able to control this bug too."