TAMIL NADU

IPM may be extended to other crops

MYSORE April 9. An integrated pest management programme (IPM) will be taken up in 1.5 lakh hectares of land under cotton in the State, the Minister for Agriculture, V.S. Koujalgi, has said.

The five-year programme, executed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and sponsored by the European Union, will help form a cadre of pest management facilitators from among the extension officials of the Government and the NGOs.

The facilitators will train growers in sustainable, profitable, and environmentally safe cotton cultivation.

Presiding over the inaugural function of the annual facilitator planning and refresher practicum of the programme here on Wednesday, Mr. Koujalgi said the Government was committed to providing facilities for the successful implementation of the project.

He regretted that cotton cultivation had become risky on account of attacks by pests such as bollworm, aphids, etc.

Farmers who invested heavily on hybrid seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides even resorted to suicide when the crop failed.

Pest management

Identifying pest attack as a major problem faced in cotton cultivation, Mr. Koujalgi said cotton farmers spent almost half their capital on pesticides.

This was only complicating the problem as pests were becoming resistant to chemicals.

The annual production of cotton in the country was 11.4 million bales. The State's share in this was 0.9 million bales.

Describing the programme as a "hope" for growers, he said it could help farmers save Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 a hectare and prevent environmental hazards.

The minister said the Government was considering a proposal to implement such a pest management programme for all crops as it would help increase the yield and bring down the cost of cultivation.

Giving a programme appraisal, Peter A.C. Ooi, Chief Technical Advisor, FAO-EU Integrated Pest Management Programme for Cotton in Asia, Bangkok, said cotton cultivation, a major traditional occupation, provided employment opportunities, whether directly or indirectly, to about 60 million people in the country.

Half the quantity of pesticides applied in the country was on the cotton crop, although it occupied only five per cent of arable land.

The programme was being implemented in India, China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

In India, this began in 2000. With the programme management unit in Hyderabad, the project was being implemented mainly in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra, and to a limited extent in Tamil Nadu and Punjab.

So far, two programmes had been conducted in Karnataka and one each in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

The 130 facilitators deployed had organised 236 farmer field schools in various States.

Four of these programmes were held in Mysore District and 5,875 farmers had been trained.

A press statement said the trained farmers had gained knowledge on ecosystem analysis, acquired troubleshooting skills, and achieved efficient cotton production.

The immediate objective of the 10-day practicum was to update the skills and knowledge of the facilitators and to plan activities for the coming season.

About 80 facilitators from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab are participating in the programme.

They will interact with trained farmers in Ballahalli in Mysore taluk and Jakkahalli and Horahalli in H.D. Kote taluk.