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Red-leaf-disease in Sindh cotton belt     
By Shaukat Ali Bhambhro

The share of Sindh in cotton production is about 20 per cent. According to the Crop Management Committee, cotton cultivation in the province has been recorded on 611,000 hectares this year which is 21,000 hectares more than the target fixed by the federal government.

Red-leaf-disease in cotton  Recently, a meeting was chaired by the Sindh Agriculture Minister, Arif Mustafa Jatoi, which termed the standing crop as satisfactory, and the pest attack negligible. Contrary to last year, this year the two pests american and army worms have remained at low ebb.

Only spotted bollworm has shown its appearance warranting control measures, hitherto. The absence of monsoon rains in the upper Sindh cotton belt proved a blessing for growers.

Almost 70 to 80 per cent growers in the districts of Ghotki, Sukkur, Khairpur and Naushero Feroze have switched over from the old Niab-78, the CIM-109, the SLS-1 to the highly susceptible new cotton varieties.

Those are not yet approved, but are on trial by the Punjab cotton breeders. These varieties are big belled with big leaves and prone to bollworms attack, especially the american and army worms.

Some new cotton varieties from Punjab introduced in upper Sindh by the mafia, and under the defective Seed Certification Act of 1976 are the CIM-499, the CIM-1000, the CIM- 496, the CIM-511, the CIM-506, the VH-1 37, NIAB-111 etc. The CIM-473 is also a big boll variety, approved by the Sindh Agriculture Department.

Last year's Kharif, varieties especially the FH-1000 and the CIM-499, due to heavy monsoon rains required 10 to 12 sprays against the pests, especially army worms and american boll worms.

Pests prone varieties are not suitable for financially constrained growers of Sindh because majority of growers purchase inputs like seeds, fertilizers and pesticides on credit of which interest rates are excessively high up to 40 per cent only for six months.

Accordingly 10 sprays cost as much as 20 sprays which is unaffordable for the growers. Despite these realities there seems to be no strategy to bring a change in the existing free- for-all-like situation where the sale of imperious pesticides, fertilizers, seeds, micronuitriants etc., are rampant. Today agriculture sector in Sindh is like a ship without the rudder.

Best example is the present outbreak of red-leaf-disease of cotton which has spread over 25 Dehs of District Khairpur and Naushero Feroze affecting about 4,000 acres of standing crop. +AB0- +AAA- Insurgence of this disease came to the notice of Secretary Agriculture, Sindh, not through the field force of the Agriculture Extension but through local newspaper reports initiated by a Khairpur-based NGO (RADO).

According to Saffartunio and Dr Fateh Memon of this NGO, who are also cotton growers, symptoms of this disease were observed about 10 days back. But just after 4-5 days their entire cotton fields become red followed by drying of the plants.

Red-leaf-disease in cotton  The writer personally surveyed some affected Dehs in Taluka Sobhodero, District Khairpur and Taluka Kandiaro of District Naushero Feroze. Observation recorded during the survey are as follows:

1. About 70 to 80 per cent affected crops were early sown with 20 to 30 per cent opening of mature bolls.

2. Premature drying of plant following outbreak of the said disease may cause 15 to 20 per cent yield loss.

3. Besides the red-leaf-disease, field inspection also revealed presence of termites, ring rot and mites infection. However, red-leaf-disease was the dominant factor behind the crop damage.

4. Among the red-leaf-plants some cotton plants of different variety were green which indicated that some variety is resistant to red-leaf-disease.

However, majority of the newly introduced varieties like the CIM-496, the CIM-499, the CIM-506 etc., were found susceptible to this disease. It would be proper to mention that the CIM-446 variety whose cultivation was allowed in late 1990's following introduction of the CLCV disease in the upper Sindh region was also found under red-leaf-disease.

5. Red-leaf-disease, being a physiological phenomenon, is not new. Its occurrence is common in the deserts cotton belt of Taluka Nara. It occurs mainly when the application of urea fertilizer is cut off in August or when there is water scarcity. Few days back a progressive grower of Farare Taluka

Nara apprised to this scribe that with four bags of urea fertilizer and two bags of DAP he is expecting about 40 mounds yield per acre with the CIM-496 variety. However, he confirmed five sprays against two to three sprays on the CIM-109, which is still, a popular variety in the desert cotton belt of Nara despite its susceptibility to the CLCVD.

The most important information provided by the said grower about the CIM-496 variety was its poor tolerance to water stressing as well as excessive irrigation.

SUGGESTIONS: Since reddening of leaves may be due to some other factor or disease it is suggested that the Cotton Commissioner may constitute a team of experts comprising pathologist and cotton breeder, especially from the Cotton Research Institute Multan for detail survey of the affected area and necessary recommendations for protection of late sown standing crop in the +AB0- +AAA- upper Sindh region and also for next year crop. 

Courtesy:The DAWN;

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