Farmers in Telangana sow cotton during Rabi season, going against the grain.

When cultivating pulses in the kharif season, N Venkatappa, a farmer in Vathugundla village in Telangana’s Narayanpet district, typically grows groundnut as the second crop. But he wanted to give cotton a try this time. “I have ensured irrigation and a borewell. My choice has generated a great deal of curiosity from my fellow farmers,” he remarked. Venkatappa and 100 other farmers in the State have decided to produce cotton during the rabi season for the first time in the nation due to improved irrigation infrastructure in the State since its inception in 2014.

Scientists have raised the red flag, however, warning farmers against growing the fiber crop during the winter for two main reasons: it allows the pink bollworm to survive and continue until the beginning of the kharif cotton season, and if the flowering takes place around February, poor yields due to punishing temperatures. Researchers at Professor Jaya shankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) have been conducting experiments to determine the ideal moment to plant as well as the appropriate types.

However, PJTSAU cautioned the farmers against engaging in extensive farming. The university has also been asked by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to stop encouraging farmers to grow cotton during the Rabi season. “It should only be carried out in locations with reliable irrigation. Small-scale agriculture ought to be practiced. To maintain the crop, they would need 12–15 irrigations”, he claimed. Similar sentiments were shared by Keshav Kranthi, the technical director for the International Cotton Advisory Committee. If it’s being done experimentally, it’s acceptable, he said. According to Kranti, a former director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, “one big issue is the possibility for Rabi paddy crop to carry over pink bollworm into the main crop in kharif.”

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