Pest Management for Cotton Farming

The CottonAce solution guides smallholder cotton farmers on the optimal time to take preventive action and protect their farm against avoidable crop losses due to pests such as the Pink and American bollworm.

Nearly 100 million farmers rely on cotton farming for their livelihood. 90% of these are small-scale producers (less than an acre of land) from low and middle income countries. India grows 26% of the world’s cotton – and along with having the largest area under cotton cultivation (41%) it is the world’s largest cotton producer. Many factors can adversely impact productivity of crops, such as plant diseases, weeds and severe weather changes. Cotton is particularly vulnerable to pests. Farmers struggle with uncertainty in yield and income, and are often driven to indebtedness and despair.

Bollworms are estimated to cause 70% of all pest damage. The Pink Bollworm (PBW) is considered the most damaging pest for cotton crops as it has recently developed a resistance to Bt-cotton.

India has an estimated 5.8 million cotton farmers, with 40-50 million people engaged in related activities such as cotton processing and trade. More than 75% of these farmers are smallholders or landless farmers, who lack the resources to adopt sophisticated pest management measures. Up to 30% of crops are lost every year due to pests, despite farmers using over 50% of all pesticide in the country (followed by paddy and wheat). Cotton yield in India is 487 kg/ha, which is significantly lower than the world average of 768 kg/ha.

Existing approaches to counter pest attacks have several limitations, since they require manual data collection (physical counting of pests found in farms), analysis, and advisory dissemination, they tend to be error-prone, unverifiable and difficult to scale. Given the short timespan in which action must be taken when controlling PBW infestations, any delay can render measures ineffective. There is also a lack of awareness among farmers about which chemicals work for specific pests and frequency of spraying. This has resulted in indiscriminate pesticide use, which fails to protect crops and is both damaging to the environment and farmers’ health.