Ahead of the Kharif season, the Agriculture Department has a huge task at hand to create awareness among farmers to fight the menace of pink bollworm on cotton and fall armyworm on maize as also to prevent the spread of illegal herbicide tolerant (HT) cotton.
The three problems have impacted the agriculture sector in a considerable measure during the 2018-19 agriculture year as they involve two major crops cultivated in the State.
According to officials, cotton was cultivated in 18.2 lakh hectares while maize was cultivated in 5.91 lakh ha during 2018-19.
On the other hand, a panel of experts of the Department of Biotechnology has confirmed during the last Kharif season that HT cotton was already spread over 15% of the extent covered by the cash crop in Telangana and in a higher extent States such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and others. The traces of illegal trade of unapproved variety of HT cotton were found on a large scale in 2018-19 when the joint task force teams of Agriculture and Police officers seized about fourteen tonnes of spurious cotton seed across the State with the suspected HT trait.
In two other major hauls earlier this year, 3.3 tonnes of such seed was seized at Mancherial and over 2 tonnes was seized near Secunderabad railway station on Friday.
Apart from sensitising the joint teams further to intensify their raids on wholesale and retail dealers of seed and processing plants, the Agriculture Department has decided to sensitise the farming community on the ill-effects of HT cotton on not only other varieties of the crops but also on the entire plant biodiversity explaining that how it would give rise to super weeds with the indiscriminate use of glyphosate, a weed killing agent.
To control pink bollworm, the Agriculture Department has prepared action plans for both off-season and season periods.
“Earlier this week, a letter was addressed to District Collectors and District Agriculture Officers on the steps to be taken during off-season and season periods. Based on the Agriculture University scientists' suggestion it has been decided to ask farmers to take up deep ploughing of cotton fields to expose the dormant stage of pink bollworm to high temperature to destroy it,” Agriculture Production Commissioner C. Parathasarathi stated.
The DAOs have also been asked, through another letter, to educate farmers on the infestation of fall armyworm, incidence of which was noticed mostly in Karimnagar, Siddipet, Sangareddy, Mahabubnagar and Khammam districts in 2018-19, to advise farmers to go for deep ploughing of maize fields and also limit the window sowing to not more than a month across the State.