The whitefly attack on the cotton crop has escalated further in the past one week across the region, leaving the farming community in distress.
As the pest turns out to be a 'poison' for the crop, the farmers have started uprooting cotton plants from their fields in several areas of various districts. Even the repeated sprays of pesticide have proved to be ineffective in controlling the menace, which has emerged amid prevailing humid conditions in Bathinda and its adjoining districts.
Nearly 4.5 lakh hectares is under cotton cultivation across the state, more than three fourth of which is concentrated in Bathinda, Muktsar, Fazilka and Ferozepur districts. Not only this, even the state agriculture department seems to have surrendered to the pest attack this time, since they are now waiting for the weather conditions to change.
The state government has asked the district agriculture heads to report the damage on day-to-day basis and what measures are being taken to control it on the ground. Moreover, agriculture experts have forecast dip in production due to damage to cotton plants. The whitely is a winged bug covered with powdery white wax, and it usually feeds in underside or sap of plant leaves.
"The farmers have started uprooting their crop in areas where whitefly has badly damaged the plant growth," said Rakesh Kumar Singla, chief agriculture officer, Bathinda. Field reports gathered over the few days ago suggest that the cotton crop over more than 4,000 acre under has been uprooted by farmers in these districts.
"The insect that attacked cotton earlier has adversely affected the crop that was sown in May and June. Moreover, in many areas, at least six whiteflies were spotted on just each leaf," he said.
Gurjant Singh, a resident of Sandoha village, said, "The scale of attack can be gauged from the fact that even the pesticides recommended by the agriculture department failed to make cotton fields pest-free."
"Instead of facing huge losses at end of the season, it is better to clear fields and go with another crop, which may help earn some money," he said.
A Union agriculture ministry team comprising experts visited different parts of the state to assess loss to the crop recently.
A debt-ridden farmer, Rajinder Singh (45), a resident of Daulatpura village in the district, reportedly committed on Saturday after his cotton crop sown over two acres was damaged due to the whitefly attack.