FAISALABAD: Pest attack on the cotton crop has intensified and so far affected 15% of the sown area in Punjab, sparking fears among farmers that it will be difficult for them to reap a bumper harvest this year.
Farmers from the south of Punjab are worried about the deteriorating condition of the key crop, which feeds the giant textile industry of the country. They have asked the provincial government to immediately take preventive measures to stave off further losses.
According to agricultural experts, Cotton Leaf Curl (CLC) virus and white fly have attacked the crop throughout the province, but southern Punjab has been particularly hit hard. As a result, the farmers, who got seeds and fertilisers on credit from traders, have suffered heavy losses.
“Delay in monsoon rains is responsible for the damage to the crop. Cotton needs a lot of watering, either through canals, rainfall or tube wells,” said Rao Babar Ali, a farmer in southern Punjab, while talking to The Express Tribune.
Tube well water was brackish in most of the cotton belt, which was not favourable, he said. “Other factors are high fertiliser and pesticide prices as well as unscheduled load-shedding, which disrupts water supply.”
The part of the crop, which was sown earlier in the season, was comparatively safe, but it was only 20% of the total cultivated area, he pointed out.
Ali expressed fears that the crop faced a major risk as southern Punjab, which was considered a high production zone in the province, had seen the biggest loss.
District Officer Agriculture Faisalabad Chaudhry Hameed said disease control teams had been sent to central Punjab to cope with the problem. He asked the growers to use recommended pesticides and fertilisers to avoid pest attack.
“Late sowing due to water shortages, poor quality seeds and fertilisers lead to various diseases like CLC virus, white fly and reddening of leaves. The leaves start to fall after turning red and this stops growth of cotton plants,” he added.
Citing a recent survey conducted by the Agriculture Department, Hameed said white fly was spreading across cotton fields. Crop cultivation started quite late and because of this factor the plants were still fragile and could not bear virus and pest attack, he said.
The farmers blamed the increasing cost of production, which was going up 20% every year.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2012.