Mystery bug hits AP cotton crop
By A Srinivasa Rao
The Asian Age, Sep 14 2005

Hyderabad, Sept. 14: An unknown disease has affected the cotton crop in Warangal district which, after Monsanto's Bt cotton seed fiasco, has become an experimental ground for genetically modified varieties.

This year only two varieties of Bt cotton seeds were okayed by the state: Rasi company's RCH2 and Bunny cotton.

A fact-finding team comprising an agriculture scientist of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Ramprasad and researcher Kavitha Kuruganti visited a few villages in the district on September 9, following reports of an unknown disease that has affected the crop in about 50,000 acres particularly in Hasanparthi, Hanamkonda, Atmakur, Dharmasagar and Geesukonda mandals.

Farmers who have had a good season so far are panicking at this adverse development at the flowering and fruiting stage.

In Sthambampalli village of Geesukonda mandal farmer Shankar Rao, who had sown RCH2 Bt cotton in one acre of land, showed the fact-finding team that 10 per cent of the plants were fully affected by the disease and another 20 per cent were affected till the upper canopy area that left them stunted. "The leaves on the top were wrinkled and had an inter-venal red tinge. These plants are not likely to recover. The leaves are developing a reddish colour and are curling downwards," the team said in its report.

Mr Rao told the team that he had sprayed confidor, boron and magnesium sulphate after noticing the wrinkling leaves. But, this has not helped.

Another farmer Doosayya Veeraswamy, who had also sown RCH2 Bt, encountered sucking pest (spodoptera) in his field in addition to the mystery disease. So did Sambayya, who planted the Bunny Bt variety.

Gundekari Ramesh, who has sown RCH2 Bt cotton in his three acres of land is also baffled by this disease.

Other farmers in the neighbouring villages, like Chandraiah and Chelpuri Laxmaiah of Durgampet village, complained of the disease and sucking pests. When they consulted the representatives of the Rasi company, they were told that it was because of lack of proper irrigation.

Some representatives of Indian Institute of Information Technology, who have been running an information extension service in this village, had suggested that the farmers apply boron for treating the problem.