Now, indiscriminate use of pesticides on orange crop

Nagpur: After cotton, farmers are irrationally using Profex Super, a broad spectrum insecticide (with combination of Cypermethrin and Profenofos), on orange trees from past two years in almost all orange growing areas of Nagpur and Amravati districts. This pesticide is not recommended for oranges by Central Citrus Research Institute (CCRI), Central Insecticide Board (CIB), or any of the state agriculture universities.
Progressive farmers and scientists claim that excessive use of this non-recommended pesticide will have dangerous effect on not just the orange crop, but also the farmers’ health. Like cotton, farmers are using the pesticide in combination with certain plant growth regulators etc, which too is not advocated by scientists.

Amol Totey, working president of Orange Growers Association of India (OGAI), who brought the issue to fore, says that a tragedy is waiting to happen in orange like the death of cotton farmers in Yavatmal district due to inhalation of pesticide last year. “OGAI conducted a survey and found that almost 90% of the farmers are using the pesticide thanks to pressure of private companies, manufacturers, and agro service centres owners, who are suggesting its use to control a pest called citrus psylla,” he said.

Totey says farmers have managed to escape ill effects of the insecticide so far as the sprayer used is safer, spray is done at a height, and the person doesn’t stand right below the canopy. But, who knows, continuous exposure may lead to severe effects, he says.

CCRI director MS Ladaniya told TOI that this pesticide is not recommended on citrus and should never be used. “It is known that repeated use of the same chemical makes it ineffective. The insect may also develop resistance. Otherwise also, any pesticide should be used with all precautions like wearing masks, gloves etc. Spray should never be done against the direction of the wind. One should also not stand below the canopy to avoid inhalation of the fumes,” he said.

Dhanraj Undirwade, entomology head of Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth, too expressed concern over the chemical. He said that the university didn’t recommend it. “It may control citrus psylla initially, but gradually it causes resurgence of other pests like black fly and white fly. This will be a highly dangerous trend,” he said.

Totey fears that increase of white fly and black fly will lead to demand of other chemicals to control them, and a vicious cycle of use of pesticides would start, which best suits pesticide manufacturers and not farmers, who go bankrupt with so much expense.

Manoj Jawanjal, director of Maha Orange and a completely organic farmer, said such broad spectrum pesticides, like antibiotics, initially yield good results but later the pest develops resistance. “We don’t just destroy the orange crop but also ruin the environment. The honey bees disappear. Natural cycles are disturbed,” he said.

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