In 2002, BT Cotton was introduced in India to fight the bollworm which was devastating the crops. BT cotton brought relief to the farmers and helped to increase the productivity of the same by many folds by making the plant bollworm resistant. That was decade back and since then many variants of BT Cotton was made available in the market to fight the pest. Ergo there is a new threat which has crept in the crops named as Pink Bollworm.
The cotton crop in parts of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra has come under pink bollworm attack as there is an erosion of resistance to the pest in some transgenic varieties. As per report from the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, there is a sporadic incidence of pink bollworm damage in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. The Maharashtra Government has already directed seed firms to pay a compensation of ₹36.83 lakh to the farmers.
As mentioned by renowned cotton scientist, It is not a serious problem yet, but it can be if care is not taken. Unlike the American bollworm, there is a drop in resistance to the pink bollworm in certain Bt varieties, he admitted. It normally enters the plant in November-December. If the sowing time is optimum, the problem can be checked, he said.
Meanwhile, the pink bollworm attack has delivered a double blow to farmers in flood-ravaged Gujarat. Most parts of the State where cotton was sown early are experiencing a pink bollworm attack yet again. State agriculture department officials confirmed the worm attack in almost all the cotton growing districts including Rajkot, Jamnagar, Junagadh and Mehsana in North Gujarat.
According to initial estimates, farmers in Saurashtra and North Gujarat had adopted early cotton sowing on about 1.5 lakh hectares till the early days of the kharif sowing, which normally starts after June 15. The State, which is India’s largest cotton producer, had seen sowing on over 26.35 lakh hectares as on July 31.
The State government estimated 25 per cent damage to the cotton sown in the State due to floods. Heavy damage to the crops added to the woes of the farmers. The pink bollworm will increase input costs for farmers.
Government officials claimed that the menace can be contained with chemical treatment. “The treatment of pesticides and insecticides will cost farmers an additional ₹2,000-2,500 per acre. This will add to their cost of cultivation. The remedy is available and this menace can be contained,” said a senior agriculture official from Rajkot district.
According to farmers in the region, the cotton plants have reached flowering stage and the insect has started showing up on the flowers. This is the initial stage of the bollworm attack. It is still curable, but once we have bolls on the plant, it will cause severe damage.