Waterlogging, pest attack scare: Cotton growing area in Punjab shrinks by over 25,000 acres

The area under cotton cultivation in Punjab has dropped by over 25,000 acres due to waterlogging and ploughing of standing crops by the farmers owing to the fear of pest attack. This alarming trend has been put forth by the provisional crop assessment carried out by the government.

Officials in the state agriculture department say the figures of perished cotton cultivation area may witness further increase, as the crop loss assessment is underway in Fazilka and Muktsar.

Fazilka has emerged as the worst-affected for cotton as nearly 17,000 acres are waterlogged with little scope for crop survival, said the department officials.

This year, 2.47 lakh hectares or over 6 lakh acres are estimated to be under cotton in the 2022-23 Kharif season.

Agriculture director Gurvinder Singh said farmers’ use of unapproved Bt cotton seeds contributed significantly to the unexpected whitefly infestation this season.

“It has come to notice that a sizeable number of farmers bought 4-G or Bt4 from Gujarat. This variety has not been recommended and is a likely host to the deadly whitefly. The department’s domain is limited to creating awareness about using only approved seeds but cannot force farmers to not buy any particular quality of seeds,” said the director, who was in Bathinda on Saturday to chair the inter-state consultative and monitoring committee of cotton-growing states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

He said experts from the Punjab Agriculture Department (PAU) are examining the reasons behind incidents of ploughing of standing crops across the south Malwa districts as the pest attacks have not gone out of control.

The Director said market trend indicates that cotton rates may remain above 10,000 per quintal mark and farmers should not panic from the pest attacks and start paying more attention to the health of plants to ensure a good yield.

Field inputs suggest that whitefly infestation has come under control after a good spell of rains in the key cotton-growing districts of Bathinda and Mansa, he added.

“Field studies show that cotton fields are nutrient deficient and farmers need to pay more attention to put urea. By this time, fields should have 50% of the total requirement of urea whereas farmers have used only 10%. The low nutrient level will affect yield and farmers should ensure good health of plants,” said the director.

Officials said the next 50 to 60 days are crucial to protect the white gold from another deadly pink bollworm.

“To date, there is a negligible presence of bollworm. As the crop is entering the flowering stage, farmers should stay alert and ensure the use of recommended pesticides,” said the head of the agriculture department.