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Impact Adoption of Cotton IPM Technology in Punjab
14 Jan 2014

Impact Adoption of Cotton IPM Technology in Punjab
Vijay Kumar and Balwinder Singh
Department of Entomology
Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana – 141 004, India

The world population is now more than seven billion and continues to grow by a staggering 83 million people per year. There has been more growth in human population in the last fifty years than during the previous two million years humans have existed. Thus, global population growth has consumed more and more of the gains of ‘green revolution' leading to a decline in per capita availability of food grains for the last 15 years. Since all the cultivable land is already under cultivation, future increases in food, feed and fibre production have to be achieved with increased productivity and improved crop protection. More than a third of the global agricultural production is lost to the activity of animal pests, diseases and weeds. The widespread and intensive use of pesticides for crop protection has caused severe environmental problems. It is in this context that Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has emerged as a welcome alternative in sustainable plant health management programmes. IPM requires a collective action, cluster approach of selecting villages and farmers in contiguous areas needs to be followed.

IPM is a sustainable approach to manage pests that combines biological, cultural, physical and chemical tools in a way that minimizes economic, health and environmental risks. It relies on technical solutions to manage pests and diseases but also takes social, economic and environmental factors into account. In this way, IPM contributes to sustainable development in agriculture. Over the centuries, farmers developed a number of mechanical, cultural, physical and biological control measures to minimize the damage caused by phytophagous insects. But, synthetic organic insecticides developed during the time of Second World War initially provided spectacular control of these insects and resulted in the abandonment of traditional pest control practices. The increasing insect pests problems encountered with the use of pesticides resulted in the origin of IPM during 1960s. IPM not only includes strategy but also educates and encourages agricultural producers to grow crops using pest management methods that aim at reducing the use of synthetic organic pesticides, environment safety, enabling growers to obtain a reasonable return or investment and ensuring consumers a supply of high quality, safe and economical foods and other agriculturally related products. IPM gained a momentum and attained the status of social movement under the ambit of total crop production programme, particularly with the help of externally aided projects sponsored by FAO, ADB and UNDP and also by huge domestic plan allocation. Since 1993, much emphasis is being given to human resource development in IPM technology through rigorous field oriented training of state extension functionaries and farmers. Training programmes envisage three tier approaches comprising of residential training to master trainers through season long training, training of agriculture extension officers and farmers through establishment of farmers' field schools and popularization of IPM practices among the farmers through conduct of IPM demonstrations.

IPM, biological control of insect pests, determination of Economic Threshold Levels (ETLs) for need based application of insecticides, waiting periods for harvesting the vegetables and fruits and expansion of bee-keeping as subsidiary occupation etc. are the land mark achievements of Department of Entomology, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana. The department has made several recommendations in this respect and these techniques were transferred to end users through various extension activities. The department has developed IPM strategies including use of resistant varieties, timely sowing of crops, use of bio control agents, mechanical control, cultural methods of control for the management of insect pests of major crops of Punjab such as cotton, rice, maize, wheat, oilseeds and pulses. Numerous attempts have been made during the last decades to implement IPM in different districts of Punjab. However, maximum efforts have been directed towards cotton, a crop that receives a disproportionately high amount of pesticides. A total of 162 insects are found to be associated with cotton in India. Before the introduction of Bt cotton in Punjab, farmers were using synthetic organic insecticides to control American bollworm. Later on this pest became resistant to these insecticides. A number of other pests also became serious. The average number of insecticide application was increased to 16. A set of integrated control measures using the use of natural enemies, cultural practices and judicious use of insecticides was implemented. PAU has been laying stress on development of IPM technology since 1970s when the concept originated.

Introduction of IPM has brought the changes in the approach and strategy of scientists, technocrats, farmers and policy planners with regards to crop protection. The government has withdrawn all kinds of subsidy and encouragement aimed for the enhanced use of pesticides. Instead, the government is promoting exploitation of natural biocontrol potential, use of resistant/tolerant varieties and cultural operations to minimize use of pesticides. Recent upsurge of pesticides related social, environmental and economic problems forced society at large and farmers and pest managers specifically, to relook and to rethink about their decision to use pesticides. Now, advanced farmers are aware of food chain getting contaminated with pesticides and their impact on human health. As a result, farmers go for pesticide use only when other options are already exhausted. In Punjab, there is substantial reduction in insecticide consumption, which declined from 5800 MT in 1995-96 to 3800 MT in 2001-02 and to 2340 in 2011-12. In Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, farmers used to apply 15-20 sprays in cotton which has come down to 5-6 sprays due to adoption of lPM strategy. Contamination of ecosystem with pesticides and associated hazards to human health, environment and deleterious effects on natural biocontrol agents inspired the government to ban already registered but most hazardous pesticides. Consequently, 28 pesticides have already been banned, 18 pesticides have been refused registration, 25 are under review and 13 are allowed for restricted use only. Microbial pesticides and pesticides of plant origin which are compatible with IPM, are being popularized by the government and NGO’s amongst farmers.

One of the first projects on IPM in India was the ICAR-sponsored Operational Research Project (ORP) on Integrated Control of Cotton Pests in Punjab which was started in 1975. The project covered a total of 15 cotton-growing villages over a 15 year period to demonstrate the efficacy, practicability and economics of IPM in cotton. The adoption of IPM technology resulted in adoption of short duration varieties of American cotton along with 73.7 and 12.4 per cent decline in the number of sprays for the control of sucking pests and bollworms, respectively (Table 1). The mean bollworm damage in ORP villages was 21.5 per cent as compared to 35.1 percent in the adjoining non-ORP villages. The yield of seed cotton was 14.3 q/ha in the ORP area as compared to 11.4 q/ha in the non ORP villages. Another major impact of the project was that the local village youths were trained and employed as scouts for pest surveillance.

During 1990s, American bollworm emerged as a major pest of cotton and it also developed resistance to all the popularly used pesticides including organochlorines, organophosphates, carbamates and synthetic pyrethroids. The farmers resorted to more frequent and excessive usage of pesticides to kill this pest. But by the end of the last century, the cotton crop yields declined significantly (Table 2). Therefore, Insecticide Resistance Management (IRM) based IPM strategies were evolved and implemented by the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur in ten cotton-growing states of India including Punjab from 2002 onwards. The local scout based surveillance system developed in ORP was expanded to a much larger scale. Even before the introduction of transgenic cotton, the project resulted in more than 40 per cent decline in insecticide consumption alongwith significant gains in crop productivity (Table 3). This was reflected in a decline by nearly 50 per cent in the consumption of insecticides at the state level (Table 4). The Bt transgenic cotton released in the state in 2005 proved to be a blessing for the farmers as bollworm sprays were eliminated and crop productivity jumped from 389 kg/ha in 2003-04 to 672 kg/ha in 2006-07. Bt cotton proved to be priceless tool in IPM as it brought down the pest status of bollworms and especially the dreaded American bollworm.

But large scale cultivation of Bt cotton in Punjab threw up new biotic stresses in the form of mealybug, tobacco caterpillar and other pests. The mealybug first time appear in certain pockets of Bathinda and Muktsar districts of Punjab during 2006 and it spread to whole south western districts of Punjab during 2007. The emerging pest problems alongwith other agronomic factors resulted in a decline in cotton yields to some extent. But these setbacks only served to underline the importance of IPM technology in Bt cotton. New IPM technology was developed for pest management in transgenic cotton. The integrated management strategy for mealybug developed by PAU, Ludhiana was adopted at the national level. Impact of dissemination of bollgard based IPM on insecticide sprays, cost of spray and seed-cotton yield in 36 adopted villages revealed that number of sprays against sucking pests were 3.1 in IPM villages as compared to 4.2 in non-IPM villages in Punjab. Average yield in IPM villages was 2566 kg/ha as compared with 2366 kg/ha in non-IPM villages. The success of IPM technology in transgenic cotton led to the formulation of a statewide project for dissemination of IPM technology involving the state Department of Agriculture and Punjab Agricultural University. The project was implemented over three years (2008-2010) and helped to spread the gains of IPM technology to all the cotton growers in the state (Table 5). During 2010-2012, the adoption of IPM technology in Bt cotton in three districts of Punjab resulted in reduction of 18.40 per cent in the number of sprays alongwith 14.95 per cent decline in the cost of sprays and an increase in yield by 8.43 per cent over the non-IPM villages.

During the last two decades, IPM has moved from a peripheral position to the central stage of agricultural production programmes. During last five years PAU had recommended various safer insecticides like buprofezin, flonicamid, novaluron for the management of insect pests on cotton which having low persistence in the environment, less mammalian toxicity and safe to natural enemies.  No major fungicides are being used as seed treatment or foliar application in cotton at present. PAU has developed an IPM module for the management of different insect pests of cotton. The IPM strategies were disseminated in all cotton-growing districts of Punjab by different agencies like PAU, Ludhiana, State Department of Agriculture, Sir Rattan Tata Trust, Mumbai, Markfed etc. Adoption of IPM programme led to the reduction in the insecticide use and cost of sprays. The success of cotton IPM has been replicated on a smaller scale in basmati rice and maize. The scope of IPM has broadened over the years to include diseases and weed management as well as nutrient and water management. More than 1200 village youths trained as scouts continue to serve as messengers for spreading scientific agricultural technology in villages across the state. Thus, IPM is helping farmers to move away from being pesticide centric producers to become ecosystem managers.

Table 1. Impact analysis of ORP on integrated control of cotton pests (1976-1989)








Per cent increase (+)/ decrease

(-) in ORP over non-ORP villages

No. of Sprays against jassid




No. of Sprays against bollworms




Bollworm damage (%)




Yield (q/ha)