South Punjab’s greener cotton path | By Saad ur Rehman Saadi


South Punjab’s greener cotton path

SOUTH Punjab’s cotton production is undergoing a remarkable transformation, thanks to the Punjab government’s comprehensive support system. The Agriculture Department is revolutionizing pest management through Integrated Pest Management (IPM), marking a new era of sustainable farming. Pakistan’s cotton industry consumes a massive 75-80% of the country’s total pesticides. However, IPM has the potential to reduce chemical pesticide usage by 20-40%, saving millions of dollars annually for Pakistani farmers. By adopting IPM, farmers can save an impressive 30-60% on pest control costs, enjoy increased crop yields and contribute to improved public health and environmental well-being. With all these benefits, it’s time to jump on the IPM bandwagon!

IPM’s holistic approach combines biological, cultural, mechanical, physical and chemical control methods, creating a superhero team of pest-fighting strategy. Embracing key principles such as regular monitoring, accurate pest identification and conservation of biological control agents enables farmers to combat pests while minimizing harm to people and the environment. Cultural control methods, including crop rotation, intercropping, planting pest-resistant varieties and proper irrigation and nutrient management, form an essential part of IPM. Crop rotation with non-host crops and intercropping suppress pests by altering microclimates and increasing the abundance and diversity of natural enemies. Mechanical and physical control methods directly remove, exclude, or destroy pests. Techniques like handpicking, trapping, barriers, screens, soil cultivation and sanitation practices effectively control pest populations while minimizing reliance on chemical pesticides. Chemical control remains a crucial part of IPM, but selective, low-toxicity pesticides applied responsibly minimize negative impacts. Proper timing, application methods and rotating chemical classes prevent pest resistance and minimize non-target effects.

Monitoring and decision-making are critical IPM components. Regular scouting, accurate pest identification and estimation of pest populations and economic thresholds enable informed decision-making. Farmers must consider pest species, population levels, crop stage, economic thresholds and potential risks and benefits of control measures when choosing the most appropriate and effective pest management strategy. IPM decision-making should be adaptive and flexible, incorporating new information and adjusting management strategy as conditions change.

Despite IPM’s universally recognized benefits, challenges and barriers must be addressed to promote widespread adoption. Some farmers may hesitate due to lack of awareness, inadequate training or economic factors like conventional pesticide subsidies and higher initial costs associated with certain IPM practices. Limited access to resources and information on IPM, along with the perceived complexity and labour-intensive nature of some methods, can further hinder adoption. It’s time to break through these barriers and demonstrate that IPM is the future of sustainable farming. Research, education and extension services are essential for spreading the word about IPM. By providing training, technical assistance and facilitating adoption at the farm level, we can bridge the knowledge gap among farmers and cultivate widespread understanding and acceptance of IPM principles and practices. With rapid advancement in technology, the future of IPM in cotton cultivation looks incredibly promising. Precision agriculture technology, remote sensing, digital decision-support tools and biotechnology innovations can all contribute to the evolution of IPM strategy, making them even more efficient and effective. Let’s enthusiastically embrace the future of cotton farming in South Punjab! By adopting IPM, we can collectively make a substantial difference in our economy, public health and the environment. Now is the time to be part of this transformative movement and pave the way for a sustainable and thriving cotton production!

—The writer is serving as Agriculture Officer in Punjab Agriculture Department.

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