Success of cotton revival through IPM in south Punjab, Pakistan
by Salman Ahmad
Cotton is a major cash crop of Pakistan and the livelihood of millions of people depend on it. Cotton area and production have both declined in the last few years due to many reasons one of them is the failure of pest control in cotton especially of whitefly and pink bollworm.
Farmers used chemical sprays to control these pests, which not only caused environmental pollution but also has ill impacts on the main crop, develop insect resistance, kill beneficial insects, increase the cost of production, decrease production and ultimately put financial pressure on farmers, other stakeholders of the cotton industry and agro-based economy of Pakistan.
In cotton season 2021-22 Agriculture department South Punjab planned an IPM model for the revival of the cotton crop as South Punjab is the Major cotton-producing area of Pakistan.
I am studying and heard about cotton IPM for a long; as “ seeing is believing” I first time practically participated in the IPM program and eyewitnessed the miracle of IPM on cotton revival.
We started the program with off-season management of pests includes removal of alternate host plants near premises (mainly for whitefly) and manipulation of cotton stick heaps (for PBW). Sowing was done in a northwest direction for proper aeration of crop, delay first sprays and then advised farmers to use biopesticides with chemicals pesticides for pest management.
At first, farmers were reluctant to use biopesticides. They were motivated by laying out IPM plots, special farmer training programs by Agriculture extension staff and massive media campaigns. Biopesticides (Neem, bitter apple, tobacco, aak, hing mixture) are not only cheap but effective against the control of resistant pests like whitefly and PBW. Besides this, biopesticides have beneficial effects on cotton crop health as well as on the environment due to less (almost 40%) use of the chemical spray. That’s why farmers adopted IPM not only to save money due to less pesticide cost but also got more cotton yield compared with cotton plots where only synthetic pesticides were used.
Research and academic institutes of south Punjab especially cotton research institute Multan, MNS university of agriculture Multan, Islamia University of Bahawalpur also played an important role by sharing research-based data. Time to time advisory issued by agriculture experts under South Punjab Agriculture Secretariat and regular monitoring by Secretariat staff was also very helpful for the successful revival of cotton.