Pest outbreak threatens Cotton Crop

Context: The Pink Bollworm pest has infected the Cotton Crop in the states of Haryana and Rajasthan.

Pink Bollworm

  • Pink Bollworm is considered possibly the most destructive pest on cotton worldwide. 
  • It is native to India but is now found in nearly all the cotton-growing countries of the globe.
  • Description: The larvae have distinctive pink bands, and the larval stage, is the most destructive and identifiable stage. The adults are small moths about 3/8 inch long. 
  • Threat:
    • Adults lay eggs on cotton bolls; once hatched, the larvae burrow into the developing fruits (bolls) of cotton plants, eat the seeds and damage the fibres of the cotton. 
    • The damage affects both the weight and quality of the harvested bolls containing the lint fibre and seeds inside, thus, reducing both the yield and quality.
    • When the larvae mature, they cut out the boll and drop to the ground and cocoon near the soil surface. 
    • The larvae can also survive in the seed after the ginning process and if the seed is not fumigated, they will emerge from the stored seed the next spring.
    • Apart from cotton, they can also attack hibiscus and okra.
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What’s the issue?

  • The Pink Bollworm (PBW) infestation has been common in the cotton belt of northern Rajasthan, Haryana and Southwestern Punjab since 2021. However, the damage reported is much more widespread and serious in 2023. 
  • The Bt cotton – which incorporates genes from a soil bacterium that codes for proteins toxic to the American bollwormhas lost its efficacy against the Pink Bollworm.
  • The pink bollworm infestation is higher this year because of early rains making it conducive for the worms to grow and fester. 
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Bt Cotton:

  • Bt cotton is a genetically modified pest-resistant plant cotton variety modified by the insertion of one or more genes (Cry1 Ac) from the soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis.
  • Strains of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produce toxins that are harmful to a variety of insects and it has been found to combat American bollworm – moth larvae that commonly attack cotton crops.
  • Bt cotton is India’s first transgenic crop formally approved for commercial cultivation in 2002.
  • Aim of introducing Bt cotton to India was to reduce the amount of insecticide needed in farming cotton.
  • Benefits: Reduction in production cost, increase in profit, reduced farming risk and improved economic outlook for cotton, does not harm non-target beneficial insects, helpful in improving wildlife population, reduced run-off of insecticides and air pollution.

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