This year, cotton has been sown on 9, 55,000 acres against 70,000 acres last year. Crop on at least 7,000 acres has already been damaged so far as it has got submerged in rainwater accumulated in the fields after incessant rains for three days last week. Though there is a possibility of checking the proliferation of whitefly by using pesticides, there seems to be no way out in case the crop has submerged.Crop on over 7,000 acres has been damaged in the state’s sprawling cotton belt spread over eight districts — Bathinda, Mansa, Muktsar, Ferozepur, Sangrur, Barnala, Faridkot and Moga — due to a week-long spell of rain. While the Agriculture Department is mulling a multi-pronged strategy to counter growing attack of whitefly on cotton at its existing ‘vegetative growth’ stage, some farmers have already started ploughing their standing cotton crop apprehending a ‘whitefly epidemic’ as had happened in 2015.Then, whitefly had damaged over 80 per cent of the crop. “We are monitoring the developments related to whitefly on a daily basis. The crop is not in a danger zone as on an average, 1.5 adult whiteflies per leaf have been spotted. It is alarming when on an average, there are four adult whiteflies per leaf,” said Sukhdev Singh Sidhu, Joint Director (Plant Protection), Agriculture Department.“The only alternative farmers are left with is to plough their fields and go in for paddy or lentils like ‘moong’,” said the agriculture official, also a member of the inter-state whitefly monitoring committee. Some farmers in Mansa, Nathana, Barnala and Bhucho have already started ploughing their cotton crop that was either damaged by rainwater or is under whitefly attack. Pritam Singh of Mehma Sarja has ploughed three acres of his standing cotton crop after spotting whitefly on its leaves.
“We preferred to plough our crop at the initial stage so that we are not forced to go in for expensive and ineffective sprays of pesticides or insecticides,” he said. Surjan Singh of Barnala rued that his cotton crop had got submerged in knee-deep rainwater. So he had no option but to plough it and make the fields ready for the alternative paddy crop, he added.Govt hires ‘scouts’ to keep watch The Agriculture Department has deployed one ‘scout’ after every two acres of cotton crop across the state. These ‘scouts’ will keep a close watch on the crop on a daily basis and inform the authorities if they spot whitefly in the cotton fields. Inter-state Whitefly Monitoring Committee was also keeping tabs on the situation. It will hold a meeting on July 16 to discuss strategies to counter the whitefly attack.
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