That pest whitefly is back. At least 4,400 hectares of the 36,000-hectare cotton area in Punjab’s border belt of Fazilka is under its invasion . The Centre will remain in touch with the state government to protect the crop in the remaining season.
The next 45 days are critical, so the Union Ministry of Agriculture will keep the fibre crop under its eyes throughout. On Saturday, its three-member expert team led by plant protection adviser SN Sushil gathered the inter-state monitoring committee that includes agriculture officers from Haryana and Rajasthan as well. “Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) will give us updates on the crop health,” Sushil said.
The Union ministry will come to Punjab’s rescue if the pest attack intensifies. “We are in the cotton belt to review the situation,” Sushil said. On the second day of their visit, the experts said Abhohar and Khuhian Sarwar seemed the only affected blocks in Bathinda, Mansa, and Muktsar districts. “Whitefly’s presence in all these areas is below the alarming level,” said one of the three central experts.
PAU vice-chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon said whitefly’s population had declined from last year. “Farmers, who last time had to go for multiple sprays of pesticides, haven’t given the cotton plants even a single dose this year,” Dhillon further said.
PAU to develop resistant seeds
Pest-busters are in action. Punjab Agricultural University. Ludhiana, and National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, are going to sign a deal to develop whitefly-resistant seeds. “The formalities are done,” said university vice-chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon, “The NBRI has developed whitefly-resistant gene TMa12, which we will add to the new hybrid seeds. The research will take eight to 10 years. We are also testing the pest-resistant hybrid varieties prepared in collaboration with Gujarat Seeds Corporation.”