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27-July-2016

The Punjab government has decided to set up a high level expert committee to monitor and check the spread of whitefly pest infestation to other cotton growing areas following widespread whitefly pest attack on cotton crop.

A decision to this effect was taken after assessing the report submitted by a five-member central team that had recently visited the whitefly pest affected areas of Abohar in Fazilka district, a senior agriculture ministry official said.

The team, reportedly, found that whitefly infestation in kharif cotton crop in 4,400 hectare in Fazilka had reached a level that called for immediate spray of pesticides.

The committee, which will also have a representative from the state government, will not only monitor the crop situation but also supervise measures to prevent the spread of whitefly pest in other areas of the state, the official said.

The whitefly pest has attacked cotton crop in Punjab for the second consecutive year. However, the spread of pest “ is under greater control in Punjab as compared to the last year, thanks to increased awareness programmes taken this time," the official said.

The state government has taken proactive steps this year to control the pest. It has employed officers to ensure that if infestation crosses a level, requiring pesticide spray, farmers are advised accordingly, he said.

The whitefly pest attack had caused widespread damage to Bt cotton varieties in Punjab and Haryana last year. In Punjab, 1.36 lakh hectares out of total 4.50 lakh hectares of cotton acreage was ravaged by whitefly attack last season and the output had dropped by 40 per cent.

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