To check the supply of spurious pesticides, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today urged farmers to use only the varieties recommended by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) to protect their cotton crops from whiteflies.
Those responsible for the supply of spurious insecticides would not be spared and strict action would be taken against them, he told farmers after taking stock of the infestation caused by whiteflies here.
"If agriculture department officials are found guilty of any lapses, they would also be punished," the chief minister said.
Amarinder also announced that he would convene a meeting on Wednesday, in case of inadequate rain, to discuss ways and means to tackle the situation as dry and humid conditions are favourable for whitefly breeding.
A comprehensive surveillance plan for constant monitoring of the situation would be finalised and implemented at the meeting, he said.
The chief minister also appealed to farmers not to resort to suicide and asserted that the loan waiver announced by his government is in the process of being implemented.
He also reassured farmers of uninterrupted power supply for the four months of cultivation.
Urging farmers to buy only the 33 seeds and pesticides recommended by the PAU, the chief minister asked them not to buy cheap and unbranded seeds from Gujarat, a major supplier to the state's growers.
He expressed concern over the poor germination of seeds in some areas.
Amarinder asked the state agriculture department to get the seeds being used by the farmers tested and ensure that genuine ones were used in crop cultivation.
He directed the department to remain alert against seeds coming from outside Punjab following reports that many of these varieties were also spurious.
Interacting with a farmer, Malkit Singh, whose cotton crop on 3.5 acres of land in Khiala Kalan, was infested by whiteflies, Amarinder assured that the agriculture department would assess the damage and take a decision on compensation.
The chief minister, who made an impromptu stop at Nangal Khurd village, was informed by the PAU officials that the extent of whitefly infestation of cotton crops this year was less than the previous year, and was confined to a few areas only, an official spokesman said.
He was told that less than 1 per cent of the total cotton crop sown in here had been affected, he said.
The infestation in Bathinda was 1.3 per cent and in Muktasar 2 per cent. Fazilka, Moga and Faridkot reporting negligible impact, the spokesman said.
Though the infestation is not significant at the moment, the chief minister directed the department and officials concerned to remain alert to tackle any eventuality.
Amarinder noted that farmers who were using prescribed seeds and had done pesticide sprays in time had not faced any problems.
He directed the department to conduct an extensive survey and ensure that pesticides are sprayed, where needed, and also urged farmers to buy sealed seed packets from reputed companies and also maintain a strict pesticide spraying schedule.
Amarinder also noted that there had been a 55 per cent increase in area of cotton cultivation this year over the previous year (from 2.50 lakh hectares to 3.87 lakh hectares), and promised all support to tackle whiteflies infestation and other problems, the spokesman said.