Crops suffer due to hot, windy weather


Lahore—As the month of September being exceptionally hot and normally windy, the agriculture cycle in Punjab has been disturbed. On the other hand, October is also hot; so standing crops are suffering varying degrees of losses, sowing for potato, and harvesting of cotton has been delayed, with farmers hoping to squeeze more and more yield. Wheat sowing is likely to suffer as well.
The temperature, which historically has been lower, or at mid-30°C during September, rose to over 40°C and the winds rose to a speed of over 60km per hour to flatten crops in some areas. The temperature increase was 4-5°C. The shedding of cotton bolls and corn-comb, and the weakening of their stems, following high-speed winds, led to lodging of a portion of not only these crops, but sugarcane and rice as well.
The farmers’ estimates of losses from the shedding and lodging of these major crops vary from 15-40pc because crops and areas were not hit uniformly. Some corn farmers claim that they are now selling their crop to silage makers as fodder instead of to the industry. All of them, however, lament ‘substantial losses’. Official circles have more conservative loss estimates.
Cotton growers claim higher losses. Their sense of loss is magnified by earlier positive signs for the crop which, by and large, had recovered from hot weather shedding during June-July. Even the recent first picking of early sown crops was healthy brightening the final output prospects. But then three factors extended heat-wave lasting right up to the first week of October (when this piece was written), the widespread attack of White Fly and high-speed winds dotting September came together to hit the crop. These dimmed farmers’ hopes.
The White Fly attack has started a blame game in the province with farmers and officials holding each other responsible for it. The province started the cotton season under the threat of Pink Bollworm, which had destroyed last year’s crop. It scared the farmers of over 1m acre to opt out of the crop, fearing a repeat of the attack and more losses. The acreage thus dropped to 4.4m acres a reduction of 22pc according to official statistics and 25pc as per farmers’ claims, compared to last year.
The decline, which started from 6.6m acres, reached 4.4m acres in the last few years. The planners also revised the Economic Threshold Level (ETL) for Pink Bollworm to one meaning that if farmers find even one pest on the plant, they must spray the crop, turning it essentially into a preventive exercise. However, the Jassid and White Fly (two other lethal pests) were ignored in the process. The ETL for them was neither revised nor any especial measures suggested. This failure is now haunting the crop. Farmers blame official circles for not revising ETL levels, and the private sector for not educating farmers on the potential threat. Interestingly, the last ETL for different pests was prepared in 1973.
The provincial agriculture bureaucracy says the White Fly was not a hidden pest, like the Pink Bollworm which remains invisible on the plant till its cycle starts, and then becomes virtually impossible to control. On the contrary, the White Fly is entirely visible from the get go and thus controllable by timely action even the first pest can be seen on stem and leaves. It is mainly the farmers who fail to break the reproductive cycle of the White Fly through quick and repeated sprays, even after official warnings. Owing to financial reasons or lack of awareness, the situation still persists in the most affected parts of the province.—Agencies