Punjab agricultural dept to remove whitefly-infested weeds to boost cotton production


With cotton crop revival in mind, the Punjab agriculture department has come up with a plan to save the crop from the whitefly attack which resulted in a huge loss to farmers in 2015.

Three months prior to cotton sowing in the Malwa region, the department has roped in district administrations to ensure implementation of the plan, which envisages removal of whitefly-infested weeds across the cotton belt, holding technical training and awareness camps at the time of purchase of seed and sowing.

The cotton sowing area in the Malwa belt was reduced to 2.48 lakh hectares in 2016-17 from the 4.50 lakh hectare in 2015-16 as growers feared a possibility of the pest attack.

Bathinda deputy commissioner Ghanshyam Thori, who convened a meeting of senior officials of departments concerned, said whitefly-friendly weed would be destroyed under technical guidance from the agriculture department before March 11.

“The departments involved in weed removal campaign will submit their weekly report to the Bathinda chief agriculture office,” he said.

Chief agriculture officer Jagtar Singh Brar said last year 80,000 hectares was under cotton cultivation in the district and it was expected to touch 1.40 lakh hectares this season.

“In 2016, a successful campaign was carried out to destroy weeds supporting whitefly. With minimal use of pesticides spray used last year, the cotton crop production was record breaking,” Brar said.

Cotton production, which dipped to 190 kg per hectare in 2015 due to whitefly attack, rose to 820 kg per hectare in 2016.

Brar said before cotton sowing, weeds, including congress grass, puth kanda, cannabis and dhatura, would be destroyed. The agriculture department has deputed a scout each for two villages and a field supervisor each for 20 villages that will take the cotton technical knowhow at the village level, he said, adding “the agriculture department will provide seed-related information by mid-March. Farmers will also be sensitised to use of pesticides and sprays,” he said.