By admin       2018-09-10

Nagpur: The state’s agriculture department has made a strong push for homemade neem-based pesticides to deal with pink bollworm pest which has hit the cotton fields for third year in a row. The pest infestation happened despite farmers using genetically modified Bt seeds which were billed to be resistant to bollworm. The departmental drive has also led to a shortage of herbal products available off the shelf. The farmers have also reported cases of black marketing. The neem pesticide prevents egg laying as the female pest is averse to the smell. The purpose behind pushing herbal pesticide was also to prevent inhalation deaths that took place last year. This year, one death was reported due to pesticide inhalation. Number of patients falling sick due to inhalation has crossed over 150 in government medical colleges of Yavatmal and Akola. The department backed by the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) is advocating use of neem seed powder or oil which is easily available in the villages. Officials say it is for the first time that there has been a major thrust by the agencies on using herbal remedy and it has helped. So far, farmers predominantly used chemicals. However, even as the department has been advising farmers to make the antidote on their own, many have gone for the ready-made products available off the shelf. Ready-made formulations have azadirachtin which is an extract found in neem. Over the counter sale of the products requires a licence. Instead of making it at home, the farmers have preferred to directly buy the products. The huge demand for herbal pesticides has also led to shortages in different pockets, admit officials. A container ranges anywhere between Rs400 to 1,700 depending on the power. As against this, chemical pesticides, which farmers have been using traditionally, costs for a couple of hundreds or so, they say. Farmers said the neem seeds are available in the month of May and the campaign started subsequently. As a result, they had to depend on the ready-made formulation. “Some of players also tried to push in unregistered products,” said sources. Subhas Nagare, deputy director agriculture (Amravati division), said there has been a major use of neem pesticide in the division which is a cotton belt this year. Nagare, who admitted that the department had taken a drive this year, said so far the farmers only depended on the chemicals which were strongly marketed. Farmers, who accept that the pest has been controlled, said it can also be due to the climate which has not been favourable for the pest. Vinod Kandkirad a farmer from Selodi village over 40 kms from Yavatmal town said the rates had gone up due to the demand. “The pest has been controlled. But this can be due to climatic conditions rather than the neem herbicide,” he said. Coming 4-5 nights crucial The coming 4-5 nights will be very crucial for the farmers to deal with the pink bollworm. The pest has a tendency to lay eggs during dark nights following the new moon. These would fall in the coming week, Even as the lunar cycle has come earlier, now it is perfectly timing with the flowering stage of the cotton crop. Officials says if enough care is taken during the period, the further infestation can be done away with. If not the cotton grower will have to once again face another attack The department is geared up to meet the challenge.

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