MULTAN: Cotton crop is facing an initial but strong pest attack with major blow of silver leaf whitefly, The News has learnt.
At least 18 cotton growing districts in Punjab are facing pest attack while hotspots of silver leaf whitefly are found in major cotton growing districts. Infestation is feared to rise in coming days, agriculture officials confirmed on Thursday.
High yield cotton districts are Bahawalpur, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalnagar which are the prime targets of whitefly attack. Joint teams of Punjab Agriculture Department and Pest Warning and Quality Control have found a severe whitefly attack from Bahawalpur where 19 hotspots of whitefly are found during surveys as compared to four thrips and 14 jassid. The teams discovered hotspots in 18 Punjab cotton-growing districts as compared to July when they were observed in 11 districts. The whitefly has massively concentrated in Bahawalnagar district where 18 hotspots of whitefly have been found as compared to three pink bollworm, four thrips, four armyworms and one jassid. The whitefly attack is also reported in Rahimyar Khan district where nine hotspots of whitefly found as compared to seven thrips, one armyworm and 13 jassid.
The teams have detected 13 white fly hotspots and two hotspots of thrips in Multan cotton fields. In Khanewal district, one hotspot of pink bollworm, nine whitefly, one thrip, one armyworm and one jassid. The Lodhran district has also received mild pest attack as hotspots of one pink bollworm, nine whiteflies, one armyworm and one jassid. The pest attack has also been reported in Vehari district as the hotspots of one pink bollworm, five whiteflies, one armyworm and two jassid hotspots were found in cotton plants. Almost same situation is reported in Sahiwal, Okara, Pakpattan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Layyah, Jhang, Mianwali and Toba Tek Singh districts.
In the beginning, the pest attack including whitefly is beyond from economic threshold level but experts feared the pest attack might cross the economic injury level. Silverleaf whitefly (SLW) is a major pest in cotton. It has the ability to contaminate cotton lint with honeydew, has a large host range, can rapidly reproduce and develop resistance to many insecticides. The whitefly adults are responsible for indirect crop damage as they can transmit several viruses from diseased to healthy plants through their mouthparts.
Scientists have established the main reason of whitefly attack is late sowing of cotton and mixing of non-recommended insecticides in spray tanks. They believed that mixing also rendered the chemical ineffective in checking the growth of whitefly. The farmers should have avoided mixing and use only the recommended pesticides. The growers have been advised to apply a new chemistry of pesticides before the pest attack reaches the level of economic loss.
When contacted, Punjab Agriculture Information official Naveed Asmat Kahloon said that whitefly combat measures had been taken and proper information and guidelines were provided to cotton growers in all districts. He advised the growers to use recommended pesticides against whitefly.