Punjab agriculture department officials are on their toes after reports of whitefly attack on recently sown cotton crop in Sivian and Tungwali villages in Bathinda district.
The department on Tuesday rushed a team of experts from Chandigarh to inspect the crop. Whitefly had wreaked havoc in the Malwa belt last year, destroying two-thirds of the standing cotton crop and causing loss of over Rs 4,000 crore. The pest attack had resulted in huge distress among farmers with over a dozen even committing suicide.
Director, agriculture, Jasbir Singh Bains, said experts from the Punjab Agricultural University are camping in the villages and have asked farmers not to panic.
The farmers, however, are worried. “I’ve already reploughed the crop on three acres,” said Charanjit Singh of Tungwali village.
“The presence of whitefly has been witnessed due to cultivation of fruits and vegetables in these two villages”, Bains said.
He added that the department has already taken measures by removing whitefly-infested weeds along canals, roads, ponds and open spaces across the state.
“Whitefly not only attacks cotton crop but also vegetables and flowers”, he added. Bains said teams in Bathinda and Mansa have been directed to remain extra vigilant.
Bathinda chief agriculture officer Nachhatar Singh Aulakh said the farmers in both these villages have been advised neither to re-plough their crop nor spray any pesticides at this stage.
“Moreover, it might be mites attack instead of whitefly. The whitefly attacks the cotton crop before the flowering process. Since the crop was sown recently, the whitefly would have died automatically due to heat and rain as there is nothing for it to feed upon at this stage”, Aulakh added.
The area under cotton crop in the Malwa belt has already been reduced to 2.40 lakh hectares from 4.50 lakh hectares last season as growers were reluctant to sow it.