Experts to test mating-disruption technique to prevent pink bollworm attack on cotton crop in Punjab

Experts to test mating-disruption technique to prevent pink bollworm attack on cotton crop in Punjab

A year after Punjab witnessed widespread damage to cotton crop due to pink bollworm infestation, Punjab Agriculture University and the state agriculture department are jointly set to undertake maiden field tests of the innovative ‘mating-disruption technique’ as a long-term measure to prevent the attack of the deadly plague.

Under the unique initiative, about 8,800 acres of land in four semi-arid districts of south Malwa has been selected for twin trials.

Mating-disruption technique (MDT), a bio-safe product, is an advanced technology of the currently used pheromone trap, which contains chemicals secreted by insects to lure male moths. Expert says MDT targets only pink bollworm’s (PBM) population cycle and other insects remain completely unharmed.

MDT is duly approved by the Central Insecticide Board (CIB) of the union ministry of agriculture and farmers’ welfare.

PAU experts say the MDT applications will be started next week as there has been a rain forecast over this weekend.

Director agriculture Gurvinder Singh said on Friday that the PAU experts will critically analyze the outcomes before its recommendation for mass use by farmers from the next Kharif season.

“Specialized Pheromone and Lure Application Technology (SPLAT), a wax-based formulation, was tested in several parts of the country over the last year, including at PAU’s research farms in Bathinda and Faridkot. This time, it will be tested in cotton fields of individual farmers to examine efficacy in general conditions,” said the director.

In the 2021-22 season, the first bollworm infestation caused widespread damage to the cash crop, particularly in Mansa and Bathinda, which are considered the economic lifeline of Punjab’s semi-arid zone.

Principal entomologist of PAU, Vijay Kumar said about 8,000 acres will be under SPLAT which is like a paste. Next two applications should be done after a period of 30 days each.

Another 800 acres will be tested for new PBKnot, which was still not tested by PAU, and comes in a 27-cm long pipe-like packaging. This MDT product works for 90-days in one go, said the expert, who works with the state government on the project.

“In SPLAT, application of a pea size of pheromone paste is put on cotton plants. Whereas, in PBKnot, the pipe is needed to put on the top twigs. In both cases, MDT products are used after 40-45 days of sowing and it must be applied before the flowering stage,” he said.

Non-chemical approach of insect pest management in cotton significantly benefits in reducing the load of chemical pesticides and cost of protection, he added.

A cotton grower from Mansa’s Khiali Chehlan Wali village Jagdev Singh said it must be accepted that PBW is now a major threat to cotton in Punjab and effective ways should be explored to contain it.

“Total 321 acres in our village will be covered (with SPLAT). As bollworm has started surfacing in the early-sown fields, farmers are worried and need prevention as we have no option but to cultivate the natural fiber,” he said.

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