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Pests, disease attack paddy, cotton
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 20
Farmers’ hopes of harvesting a bumper crop of paddy and cotton are turning sour in Punjab and Haryana. They are desperately trying to protect their crops from the attack of various pests and diseases by increasing the frequency of sprays of pesticides.

However, at many places the farmers, who had transplanted paddy a bit early, seem to be fighting a losing battle because of the extensive attack of flag smut. The cotton crop, which was in good shape earlier, has received a big setback in the past one week.

During a visit to various affected villages by this correspondent today, farmers said that in certain areas the damage to paddy and cotton would be up to 35 per cent.

However, officials of the Agriculture Department do not agree with such an assessment. Officials of the department and Punjab Agricultural University accept the damage to crops but are not prepared to quantify it yet. They say the attack of pests is “below the ETL”, a parameter fixed by them in this regard.

Incessant rain has caused harm this time. It has caused widespread damage to the paddy and cotton crops at several places in Ropar, Patiala, Sangrur, Mansa, Bathinda, Sirsa, Hisar, Fatehabad and other parts of the two states. On paddy, the attack of the leaf roller, flag smut and bacterial leaf blight is more pronounced. The cotton crop, which is by and large free from the American bollworm, is facing an attack of other pests. Moreover, inclement weather has caused large-scale deflowering of cotton plants and rotting of their bolls.

Mr Gurdial Singh, Joint Director, Agriculture Department, said the paddy crop of those farmers who had sown unrecommended varieties had been hit by blight and smut. He said at this stage it appeared there was no solution to these problems, especially of smut, except draining out water from the paddy fields.

Farmers have been partially successful in controlling the attack of pests on cotton with sprays of pesticides. What is causing panic among them is the attack of flag smut. It has already caused huge damage to the paddy crop in the Samana-Patran-Moonak-Jakhal-Ratia belt.

“Rain has dashed our hopes. We were expecting very good returns from paddy and cotton this year. However, the returns will be much lower than what we had estimated two weeks ago”, says Satvir, a farmer, who has taken land on contract in Gular village to transplant paddy. His paddy fields are under extensive attack of flag smut, blight and the leaf roller.

Mr Harpal Singh of Chohat, near Samana, says farmers in his village have found flag smut on their paddy crop. “We have been able to manage blight and the leaf roller but the blackening of grains seems to be unpreventable”, he adds. “ Everything was fine with the paddy two weeks ago”, he claims.

Mr Tejinder Singh, a farmer of Rao Majra village, near Patiala, says he has transplanted paddy on 72 acres. He complains of the attack of smut. “I believe that by the time we harvest the crop, its quality will deteriorate and it will be difficult to dispose it of”, he adds. Narinder Singh of Talwari village says his entire cotton field has been attacked by pests.


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