Faridkot : After cotton farmers faced losses due the pink bollworm infestation in the last kharif season, the Punjab agriculture department has launched a state-wide campaign to counter the pest threat this season.

Agriculture director Dr Gurvinder Singh is leading the campaign to keep a close watch on the cotton stacks for the carryover of pink bollworm before sowing starts. The agriculture department had constituted district and block-level pest surveillance teams to conduct weekly surveys. The department has also started an awareness campaign by distributing specially prepared literature to farmers to check the pest attack.

In the 2021-22 kharif season, 3.25 lakh hectare was under cotton cultivation and authorities were expecting yield of 50 lakh quintals. But owing to the first-ever devastating attack of pink bollworm, the production was severely hit in the major cotton-growing districts of Bathinda and Mansa. Earlier this week, the state government released 101 crore as compensation for damage to cotton crop due to pink bollworm last season.

Dr Gurvinder said the area under cotton this year would increase to 4 lakh hectares. The department is conducting surveys twice a week in each cotton-growing village to assess the threat level due to cotton stacks.

“Once the climatic conditions are conducive, the bollworm pupa from cotton stacks would become mature. The moth survives only on cotton plants and reproduction cycles in the fields would affect the crop severely. So, cotton stacks need to be cleared through pest management exercise,” he said.

According to the agriculture department data, the pest management exercise in the pre-sowing started in January and 70% area has been covered so far, while the remaining 30% area will be cleared by March 31. The cotton sowing will start from April 10.

Dr Gurvinder said real-time monitoring would be done at the state-level where officials would interact directly with the farmers and sensitise them. “After sowing, the agriculture department teams will visit the fields for weekly surveillance. We are also trying to avoid staggered sowing as it provides favourable atmosphere to pink bollworm. We will ensure that sowing starts at the same time across the state, so that flowering and spraying takes place during same period, which will decrease the pink bollworm threat,” he said.

The agriculture department has also procured 23.94 lakh packets of cotton seeds recommended by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) against the present requirement of 20 lakh packets.

The team on Sunday visited various villages in Faridkot and Muktsar district to take stock of the cotton crop.

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