Published: Wednesday 30 June 1999

Pest management

The article on pest management 'Operation pest guard' ( Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 24; May 15) made good reading. However, I would like to draw your attention to some errors. Out of the three important Indian cash crops -- tobacco, chilly and cotton -- cotton is the most widely grown crop. Though there are instances of crop failure due to the outbreak of insect pests, cotton production has grown steadily over the years. The actual gross cultivated cotton area is 10-12 per cent, and not 35 per cent as written in the article.

The article says that around 50 per cent of the total pesticide used in the country is on cotton. In fact, in many states such as Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, the consumption is much higher. The indiscriminate use of pesticides has led to high levels of pesticide residue, resistance and resurgence, not to mention the environmental pollution and health hazards.

During 1995-96, India earned Rs 25,402 crore from raw cotton textiles and yarn garment exports. If we have to compete in the world market, then we have to reduce the use of pesticides. In this scenario, Integrated Pest Management ( ipm ) is the only solution. ipm has many benefits. Ploughing in summer is necessary to kill the dormant pests. Cotton should be also rotated with cereals and not pulses. This is because the gram caterpillar will shift to pulses, being polyuphagous. It has been observed that the gram caterpillar attacks the cotton crop up to November-December, and later shifts to redgram and Bengal gram during the rabi season.

The use of neem cakes must be increased because of its high manurial properties. The article rightly advises inter-cropping with greengram, cowpea or clusterbean to enhance the number of predatory insects.

Today, when farmers use 20-30 rounds of deadly pesticides, 6-8 rounds of pesticide sprays, ipm can not only increase production but also reduce environmental degradation. It is time for policy makers, planners, administrators, scientists, department officials and ngo s to join hands and popularise ipm not only with regard to the cotton crop, but also on other crops....

On a clean track

This is with reference to the article 'City cycling' ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 21; March 31). Luud Schimmelpenninck's attempt to make Amsterdam a "car free" city is a laudable one. Why can't we implement this proposal in India? Even if we do not succeed in eliminating all cars, limiting their numbers will contribute a great deal to reducing pollution.

However, it will not be easy to implement this proposal as India witnesses extreme climactic conditions -- hot summers to chilly winters. But a beginning can be made if compulsory cycling could be introduced in market areas. This may not only reduce pollution, but congestion, too....

Innovative irrigation

The article on drip irrigation 'Ingenious irrigation' ( Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 19; February 28) made interesting reading. In spite of the high cost, drip irrigation has many benefits. But one major drawback of this system is that due to fluctuating voltage in rural areas, the drippers get choked and this in turn leads to motors burning out.

We could do well to learn from Bhaskar Save of Umbergoan who has been practising natural farming. He has been able to use water economically to an unbelievable level. He also found that plants require less water in summer and more water in winter. We must learn from the ingenuity of our farmers and not go overboard with foreign technologies....

The importance of grasslands

Congratulations on the article on grasslands 'The milk that ate the grass' ( Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 22; April 15). The article gives the impression that sugarcane residue can be used as very good fodder. However, bagasse can only be recommended as feed under conditions of extreme scarcity and drought.

A very important point has been missed in the article. You have failed to highlight that grasslands are the only way to prevent soil erosion. Large areas in the us are being converted to no-till farming wherein only grass is grown on the range. This minimises soil erosion....

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