Covid-19 fallout: Weed removal before cotton sowing delayed in Malwa beltUpdated: Mar 26, 2020 22:23 IST
The ongoing national medical emergency in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak has put forth a challenge for the cotton-growing belt of Punjab.
Cotton is the economic lifeline of farmers in the semi-arid belt of south Malwa region as the crop is sown in eight districts, mainly in Fazilka, Mansa, Bathinda and Muktsar.
The sowing period in the state starts from April 18 based on the recommendations of agriculture scientists. But the first step of removing weed before sowing has not started yet due to the pandemic threat.
As per the protocol followed by the state agriculture authorities, weeds like ‘kanghi buti’, ‘peeli buti’, ‘puth kanda’, ‘dhatura’ and ‘bhang’ growing on field bunds, wastelands, roadsides and irrigation channels/canals are removed through community participation.
“In the last season, the practice proved immensely beneficial in keeping the whitefly pest at bay. As per the plan, the exercise to remove weed was to be completed by the first week of April but the current situation did not allow it to start fully. The field staff has been instructed to start contacting farmers and weed removal will begin at war footing after the lockdown is withdrawn,” state agriculture director Sutantar Kumar Airi said.
Airi said cotton is crucial to the farmers in a sizeable area of the state, the state is closely monitoring the developments.
“In spite of the coronavirus threat, the department is hopeful to achieve the target to add 25% more land under cotton cultivation. In 2019, 4 lakh hectare land was used to cultivate cotton and this year we aim to extend by another 1 lakh hectares in the south Malwa districts,” Airi added.
In 2019, Punjab crossed the target of bringing 4-lakh hectare land under cotton cultivation, the highest in the last five years, say officials.
Also, there was no major pest attack and the average yield was close to 800 kg lint per hectare last year.
In 2015, cotton yield dropped to a low of 197 kg lint per hectare due to the whitefly attack. The crop yield in the belt was 756 kg (2016), 750 kg (2017) and 778kg (2018).