Though the Punjab government and Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) have extensively promoted desi cotton varieties which are resistant to whitefly, farmers of the cotton belt will have to wait for another year to get seeds of these varieties.
The PAU and other authorised stores across the region have run out of these seeds. Farmers have been approaching agriculture department offices and PAU seed farms to get them but they have been returning disappointed.
After the extensive loss to cotton crop owing to the whitefly attack last season, both the state government and PAU had appealed to farmers to sow PAU-recommended desi cotton varieties—FDR-124 and LDR-949—in the coming kharif season.
Despite double the labour cost for these varieties at the time of flower-picking, they are in demand as they are whitefly-resistant to an extent. However, the non-availability of seeds has dented the government plans of insisting farmers to adopt these varieties.
Even during its recent kisan melas in cotton-belt districts—Mansa, Bathinda, Faridkot, Muktsar and Fazilka—the PAU paid special attention to introducing these varieties to farmers.
Chief agriculture officer Nachhatar Singh Aulakh said the PAU’s local varieties are in huge demand this year but their seeds are not available. “A few farmers managed to buy the seeds during kisan melas, but now they are opting for Rajasthan- and Haryana-based desi cotton seeds that are available in the market. We expect 25,000 hectares of area under desi cotton varieties this year,” Aulakh said.
He said the department had been flooded with queries on desi cotton varieties this year. In the absence of desi variety seeds, farmers had been advised to go in for 38 other hybrid varieties recommended by the PAU, Aulakh said.
Meanwhile, Paramjit Singh, director, PAU research station, said the PAU had come up with a limited stock, a major chunk of which was sold during kisan melas. “Farmers have shown immense interest in these varieties. We will come up with adequate quantity of seeds next year after seeing its results,” he said, adding that the PAU is demonstrating these varieties in at least 500 cotton farms across the region.