The Maharashtra government has recalled its earlier decision to allow the sale of BT cotton seeds from May 1. The decision was taken after the state agriculture department approached the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, seeking advice against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic affecting the country.
VN Waghmare, director, CICR, a major research centre for cotton in the state, pointed out that taking the current situation into account, it has recommended that the government create awareness among farmers and educate them to desist from early sowing. Farmers should be told to opt for sowing operations only by mid-June to prevent a possible pink bollworm infestation of the crop, the institute said.
Waghmare said if BT Cotton seeds are made available early to the farmers and they go in for early sowing, the window of sowing gets longer and the chances of pink bollworm infestation is higher. The institute has recommended sale of seeds from May 25.
Cotton is an important kharif crop and Maharashtra normally sees around 40 lakh hectare area under the crop. Pink bollworm attack on cotton balls is considered dangerous. Experts say early cotton sowing leads to pink bollworm attack. The worm survives on cotton and develops during the high temperatures, they say.
Pink bollworm had caused huge damage to the cotton crop in Maharashtra in 2017, with farmers reporting huge losses. The state agriculture department has since taken up extensive outreach programmes to inculcate integrated pest management (IPM). IPM practices had discouraged early sowing and also talked about usage of pheromone traps (contraptions which trap the male moth by usage of ‘lures’, which have the female pheromone smeared on them).