Cotton crop in several districts of Haryana - Hisar, Fatehabad, Sirsa, and Jind - is under attack from whiteflies and in some cases farmers have cleared their land of the crop to curtail losses. New crop has been sown in certain areas.
Whitefly is a parasite which grows under the leaf of the cotton plant. It sucks leaves and causes leaf-curl virus, which affects flowering of cotton and leads to reduction in yield.
In a glaring example of the loss, the disease had caused, four farmer brothers - Nanu Ram, Chhotu Ram, Devi Lal, and Balraj of Dhansu village - in Hisar district have cleared cotton crop on 50 acres and replaced it with maize, after they found 80% of their crop to be damaged.
The brothers claimed that the estimated per acre cost of cotton crop production is around `10,000. "We had sown cotton on 50 acres and thus have had a loss of `5 lakh," one of the brothers Nanu Ram claimed. Haryana sows cotton on 5.4 lakh hectares.Another farmer Narinder Malik from Ramayan village near the sub-division of Hansi claims that 100 farmers in his village destroyed their cotton crop due to the disease.
Social activist Krishan Saroop Ghorakporia from Fatehabad says, "There are very high costs due to the disease. In my village, a farmer has to between `40,000 and `50,000 as rent for one hectare. Then there are other production costs like tilling, sowing, seeds, sprays," Ghorakporia said.
On the drop in yield, he claims, "A farmer with a good crop normally produces 25-30 quintals from one hectare. However, whitefly attack reduces the production to not more than four to five quintals per hectare."
A farmer earns around `5,000 per quintal on his cotton crop.
All-India Kisan Sabah (AIKS) Hisar district secretary Pradeep Singh attributes growing suicide rate in Haryana to increase in the cost of production and decrease in returns.
"The AIKS demands an immediate survey of crop by the government and proper compensation for farmers. We have raised the issue before the government and organised a protest on August 13, 14 at the Hisar mini-secretariat," he claimed, adding that in spite of a promise by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar in July that a survey would be done on the crop, but nothing had materialised.
The state agriculture department attributes the heavy whitefly attack to the long dry spell and excessive use of pesticides. "Yes, the crop is affected by the disease. However, all is not lost yet. If we will have a good rainfall the loss could be curtailed to a major extent," said Hisar agriculture department deputy director Vinod Phogat said.
"In my district Fatehabad, almost all of the 79,185 hectares under cotton crop production has been hit. However, if it rains any time soon, the whitefly eggs would get washed away," said Fatehabad agriculture department deputy director Balwant Saharan.
Excessive irrigation and overuse of fertilizers are the cause behind the pest attack, he said.
WHAT IS WHITEFLY?
The parasite damages the crop by sucking the sap from the leaves as a result of which shedding of leaves takes place, affecting the productivity.
Excessive irrigation and overuse of fertilisers are the cause behind the pest attack, experts claim.