In Sindh the wheat production target of 2.256 million tons has been fixed for 2004-2005. The projected 45 to 50 per cent water shortage and the delayed removal of cotton crop from fields have given rise to apprehensions that the wheat target for current Rabi season may not be achieved.
Last year, high price of phutti (seed cotton) had tempted the growers to keep cotton crop in the field till the opening of the last boll. This delayed the removal of cotton plants which, in turn, helped in proliferation of pink bollworms and delayed the sowing of wheat crop resulting in low per acre yield.
This year too, the same scenario is developed, not because cotton growers wanted to keep the plants in fields for phutti but due to the shortage of pickers. Majority of farmers from upper Sindh reported that despite advance payments they could not get the promised manpower during the cotton season, especially from the Seraiki belt of Punjab.
This year (Kharif 2003), because of large scale cultivation of early maturing varieties like the CIM-496, the CIM-499, the CIM-511 etc., growers of upper Sindh expected completion of final picking during October and timely sowing of wheat crop from the first week of November. But the shortage of cotton pickers changed the scenario.
Survey of standing cotton crop in District Ghotki, Sukkur and Khairpur undertaken by this scribe during the first week of December indicated that the unopened cotton bolls, irrespective of the variety harbour heavy population of pink boll worm larvae.
Almost 70 per cent unopened bolls were found heavily infested with pink boll worms. In a Bt cotton field in Taluka Nara of Khairpur District, 78 per cent bolls of Niab-78 cultivated with Bt cotton (because of mixing in seed) were also found infested with pink boll worms.
Survey also indicated that because of low price of seed cotton (phutti), growers have little interest in the leftover immature and unopened bolls. Since almost 70 per cent of the leftover bolls harbour pink boll worm larvae, keeping the harvested cotton plants for longer period will be lethal for next year’s cotton crop.
In remote villages Haris (tenants) used to keep the harvested cotton sticks to use it as a fuel for cooking. To assess pink boll worm situation in phutti and refuge of ginning factories, survey of some factories in District Khairpur and Sukkur was conducted.
It was found that cotton refuge in all factories harboured pink boll worm larvae. It was also observed that to keep lint free from the yellow cotton, caused by pink boll worm infestation, women labourers in large numbers had to be deployed this year in every ginning factory to separate the infested follicles from the un-infested.
According to the management of ginning factories if menace of pink bollworm is not attended scientifically, both at provincial and federal levels, it is quite likely that with the passage of time increased pink bollworm problems may jeopardize not only cotton production but also the quality of lint in upper and lower Sindh.
1. To reduce intensity of carryover population of pink boll worm, larvae burning of harvested cotton sticks should be undertaken before February.
2. Since ginning factories refuge, containing discarded cotton seeds, harbour pink boll worm larvae, its burning should be ordered in every factory of upper Sindh.
3. Since chemical control of pink boll worms has been found unsatisfactory and cost-effective, growers should be apprised of cultural control methods of pink boll worms problem.
Courtesy: The DAWN