Indian cotton farmers are “on a warpath against the state government” in the state of Punjab, according to a report in the authoritative Times of India. An outbreak of whitefly attacks has caused considerable damage to the area’s crop with an estimated 60% of the cotton crop destroyed.
The Union of Textile Ministry has ordered the Cotton Corporation of India to immediately begin purchasing the remaining cotton in the region at the Minimum Support Price. Political leaders are scrambling to develop an assistance program for the farmers who lost their crops to the pest attacks this year, while farmers are up in arms over the relaxation of cotton procurement norms.
Whitefly not only hurt yields by sucking juices from plant leaves, their sugary wastes – commonly referred to as “honeydew” – create stickiness on plants and open bolls, making it difficult for mills to spin fiber into thread. Stickiness issues have turned up at times in the western United States where whitefly and/or aphid populations were not adequately controlled. This has created headaches for mills that bought those bales and given parts of the U.S. crop a blackeye during some previous seasons.
While the Times of India report did not specifically deal with stickiness issues, it’s likely that fiber quality also has been hurt by honeydew deposits. The sugary substances also lead to the development of mold, which also can hurt yields and fiber quality.
The original Time of India article can be found here.