To counter the whitefly attack on the cotton crop, the Agriculture Department has been advising the farmers to continue spraying of neem water extract every week.

This advice was also given to the PAU Vice-Chancellor in a meeting held recently following which V-C Baldev Singh Dhillon asked some officials of the university to do thorough research on this technique.

The department has been advising the farmers to avoid spraying of pesticides over the crop at the moment in case the whitefly is being prevented by the neem water.

Officials have claimed that in many villages where whitefly attack was reported, the department looked into the problem thoroughly and got neem water sprayed.

However, the officials are advising the farmers to spray pesticide where jassid pest has also attacked the cotton crop as the neem water cannot prevent or kill the jassid pest.

Farmers have been told to boil 10 kg of neem in 15 litres of water that should be reduced to 10 litres after boiling. Thereafter, the 10 litre neem water should be mixed with 100 litres of water and can be sprayed on the cotton crop afflicted with whitefly in around two acres.

Farmers can also spray neemocide spray — a bio-pesticide — but that would cost them Rs 500 per acre.

Some farmers who have adopted this technique of neem water or yellow traps have reportedly got success.

Mukhtiar Singh, sarpanch of Kotli Khurd village in the district, said, “The area under the cotton crop in our village has reduced to 250 acres this year from more than 1,000 acres last year, following massive whitefly attack.”

“This year again, it has knocked our doors but the advice of the Agriculture Department has helped us a lot. The neem water spray has been proving beneficial to us as the whitefly is now under control while there is no jassid pest attack this year on cotton,” he added.

“Pesticides kill the ‘friend-insects’ in the cotton crop which can kill the whitefly. So we advise farmers to use neem water where there is only whitefly attack,” said agriculture development officer (ADO) Baljinder Singh.

“Recent rains in the cotton belt have already reduced the level of ET (economic threshold) that was already low up to 1.5 to 2, whereas the alarming level is above 6 per cent. We guide them to adopt traditional methods to contain whitefly and other pests such as the installation of sticky yellow traps’ in cotton and moong fields and the spray of neem water,” said Jaskaran Singh ADO.

In a recent brainstorming session held by Punjab Agriculture University, V-C Baldev Singh Dhillon, along with officials from Haryana and Rajasthan, besides the chief agriculture officers from the Bathinda Zone, known as the cotton belt, had claimed that the department would conduct research over the new gene that has been discovered by the National Botanical Research Institute, New Delhi, to control whitefly.

He said to counter whitefly, research was the need of the hour and efforts were on to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Central Research Institute to obtain the ‘gene’ and conduct research over it.

Dr Meena from the Research Station, Ganganagar, and Dr Rishi from the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Sirsa, were also present in the meeting of three states — Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Besides, chief agriculture officers from seven districts under the Bathinda zone, including Bathinda, Mansa, Fazilka, Moga, Faridkot, Muktsar, and Ferozepur, were also present in the meeting.

Source: July 21, 2016, The Tribune