Bathinda Four years after cotton productivity dropped to low of 197kg lint per hectare due to white pestfly attack in 2015, agriculture experts say that the productivity this year will be a record 800-kg per hectare. In 2016, the cotton yield was 756kg; 750kg (2017) and 778kg (2018).
As the sale of cotton continues till February, authorities expect production to cross 40 lakh quintal this year, and the exact yield would also be calculated then.
Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) director of research Navtej Singh Bains says the transformation has been made possible by two factors. One is the use of neem-based bio-pesticide and the second was the varsity’s preparation of a plan to revive the crop.
After widespread damage to cotton in 2015, an inter-state consultative and monitoring committee was formed under PAU vice-chancellor BS Dhillon.
“As no major pest attack was reported this year, farmers had to spend lower on pesticides. Field studies proved the effectiveness of neem-based pesticides in containing whitefly. Farmers were sensitised about its use under an integrated pest management programme,” Bains said.
He added, “A panel of experts prepared a comprehensive plan, including recommending the right kind of seeds, irrigation schedule, removal of weeds and use of bio-pesticides. Four years of watch and effort led to the best cotton yield this season in which the use of bio-pesticides remained an important factor.”
In Malwa, 4-lakh hectare was brought under cotton cultivation. Cotton growers like Rajinder Singh of Jodha Romana village in Bathinda attest to the value of using neem spray. “I cultivated cotton on 15 acre and used neem spray three times. Previously, I used to do 6-7 sprays of pesticides, but I used it as per the recommendation of agriculture department officials. I harvested nine quintal of cotton from an acre,” Rajinder added.
Bathinda chief agriculture officer Dr Gurditta Singh said the use of neem spray does not harm the environment and ecological system as the neem’s bitter taste keeps insects away from plants. “Neem-based biopesticide is not only cost-effective, but also leads to better yield. PAU had recommended using it at the beginning of the season. As a plant is soaked with the bitter natural mixture, whitefly stays away from the plant and it conserves natural enemies of the whitefly,” Gurditta added.
The expert said with community participation, weeds like ‘kanghi buti’, ‘peeli buti’, ‘puth kanda’, ‘dhatura’ and ‘bhang’ growing on field bunds, wastelands, roadsides and irrigation channels/canals were pulled out. This also helped keep whitefly pest at bay.