According to the state agriculture department, all 14 blocks of Bathinda and Mansa, the two biggest cotton-producing districts of Punjab, have reported the pest attack. Cotton growers in south Punjab are a worried lot these days as pink bollworm infestation has been reported in more areas ahead of the main harvesting period of the Kharif crop starting next week.
The maiden picking of the three-picking cycle of cotton is expected to begin after September 15 whereas farmers have started harvesting in the early-sown fields. Bt cotton is resistant to American bollworm, but experts say it is susceptible to the pink bollworm as has been seen in Maharashtra, Gujarat, and now in Punjab for the second consecutive year.
Sources said last year, traces of pink bollworm were found in few pockets of 20 villages in Bathinda and Mansa but in the last few weeks, the pest’s presence is felt in the larger area of the cotton belt. Experts and the agriculture department blame oil mills, cotton ginning units, and a section of villagers for ignoring the laid-down protocol to avoid the pest. Bathinda chief agriculture officer Manjit Singh said intense surveillance was started at the village level from Monday.
“Our teams have started holding awareness and field inspection camps and the task in both districts would be completed by Saturday.