ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Changes over a Decade

Pesticide Usage by Cotton Farmers in India

With India emerging as a leading cotton producer in the world, and considering the large-scale adoption of Bt cotton cultivation, there is a need to understand the patterns of pesticide use by cotton farmers, especially as environmental, ecological, and health concerns surrounding pesticide use continue to be debated.

Globally, synthetic pesticides have become the predominant method for controlling pests.1 Consumption of pesticides is particularly high in cotton cultivation as the crop yield is seriously affected by pest attacks. The potential production losses due to pests in the absence of pest control mechanisms worldwide have been estimated at around 82% for cotton (Oerke 2006). In India, the loss of cotton yield due to bollworm was estimated to be around 50%–60% (Narayanan and Ramaswami 2007). Given this, it is no surprise that cotton farmers use a large amount of pesticides as compared to other farmers. India is no exception to this, and farmers use a wide range of pesticides for damage control. The use of pesticides in India’s cotton production is critical because it has the largest area under cotton cultivation and, as such, it is emerging as the leading producer of cotton. India is also the second largest exporter of cotton in the world. Cotton forms roughly 5% of the gross cropped area in the country while consuming 36%–50% of the total pesticides in the country (Devi 2010; FICCI 2013; Bhardwaj and Sharma 2013).

Pesticide consumption for plant protection in India is estimated to be around 600 grams per hectare, while countries such as Taiwan, China and Japan consume 17 kilogrammes (kg), 13 kg and 12 kg per hectare respectively (Singh et al 2014). However, with respect to overall consumption, India ranks 10th in the world. From the perspective of farmers’ utilisation of pesticide, several concerns demand attention. First, there have been concerns regarding the prevalence of some hazardous and banned pesticides, which makes current pesticide levels highly risky to health, environment, and ecology (Shetty et al 2008; Devi 2010; Kouser and Qaim 2011; Taneja 2017;BBC 2017; Kranthi 2017). Second, the question of irrational usage of pesticides has received attention (Nagaraju et al 2002; Shetty 2004; Ranga Rao et al 2009; Colvin et al 2012). Third, there have been concerns regarding the counterfeit nature of the pesticides available in the Indian market (Ramaswami 2002; Pray and Nagarajan 2014) as well as the “deskilling” of farmers owing to the rapid introduction of new variants (Stone 2011).

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Updated On : 17th May, 2018

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