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Context: Severe problem faced by cotton farmers in Rajasthan and neighbouring regions due to the infestation of the Pink Bollworm (PBW).
- The infestation of PBW has been common in the cotton belt of northern Rajasthan, Haryana, and Southwestern Punjab since 2021. However, the damage caused by PBW is reported to be much more widespread and serious this time.
- PBW larvae burrow into the cotton bolls, affecting both the weight and quality of the harvested cotton. As a result, the cotton yield has significantly decreased. Labourers who pick cotton now report a reduced daily yield compared to previous years.
- The decreased yield and increased costs for labour, seed, fertilizers, insecticides, and other inputs are making cotton farming unprofitable for many.
- Bt cotton, which incorporates genes from soil bacteria to combat pests, has lost its effectiveness against PBW. Farmers were supposed to plant non-Bt cotton as a refuge crop to delay resistance development, but this practice seems to have been neglected.
- The Rajasthan and Haryana governments are aware of the crisis. They are considering providing compensation to affected farmers through insurance and disaster relief funds, but the extent of compensation may depend on the level of damage.
Pink Bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella)
●It is one of the most destructive pests of cotton, causing significant economic losses to cotton growers worldwide.
●Originally native to India, the Pink Bollworm has now spread to nearly all cotton-growing countries across the globe.
●The adult Pink Bollworm moths are relatively small, measuring about 3/8 inch in length. They are dark brown in colour and have distinctive markings on their forewings.
●Pink Bollworms pose a significant threat to cotton crops. While adult moths have a relatively short lifespan of only two weeks, females can lay a substantial number of eggs, often exceeding 200 or more.
●Adult females lay their eggs directly on cotton bolls. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae emerge and feed on the cotton seeds and fibres within the boll. This feeding damage reduces both the yield and the quality of the cotton.
●As the Pink Bollworm larvae mature, they cut out the cotton boll from the plant and fall to the ground. They then create a cocoon near the soil surface to pupate.
●While cotton is their primary host, Pink Bollworms have been observed attacking other plants such as hibiscus, okra, and hollyhock. However, their economic significance primarily lies in their impact on cotton crops.
●Efforts to control the Pink Bollworm typically involve integrated pest management strategies, including the use of insecticides, planting Bt cotton varieties (genetically modified to resist the pest), and implementing cultural and biological control measures. Controlling the Pink Bollworm is crucial for maintaining cotton production and ensuring the livelihoods of cotton farmers worldwide.
- The infestation of the Pink Bollworm is causing significant economic hardships for cotton farmers in the region, impacting their livelihoods and the cotton industry as a whole.
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Q. What are some effective and sustainable methods for controlling agricultural pests while minimizing environmental impact and ensuring the long-term health of crops?