Farmers' perceptions of insect pests and pest management practices in Bt cotton in the Punjab, Pakistan

Arshad, M., Suhail, A., Gogi, Yaseen, M. M., Asghar, M., Tayyib, M., Karar, H., Hafeez, F., and Ullah, U.
(2009) International Journal of Pest Management , 55 (1), 1-10


The aim of this study was to (1) examine the factors involved in the adoption or non-adoption of Bt cotton, (2) identify sources of Bt cotton seed acquisition, and (3) evaluate farmers’ knowledge and perception of insect pests incidence and management practices in Bt cotton in the Punjab, Pakistan. A total of 150 farmers growing Bt cotton expressing Cry1Ac protein were interviewed in the main cotton-growing districts of the Punjab province. The main reasons for farmers adopting Bt cotton were to: (1) reduce bollworm damage; (2) reduce pesticide requirements; (3) obtain higher yield and profit; and (4) reduce labour. Most farmers were not initially aware of Bt cotton’s effectiveness against cotton bollworms and then grew it on a trial basis. The main sources of Bt cotton seed were the local market and seed companies while many farmers used home-retained Bt cotton seed, much as they do with conventional cotton. Our survey showed that farmers were aware of the major insect pests of cotton and reported a low incidence of cotton bollworms (Helicoverpa armigera, Pectinophora gossypiella, Earias vitella and E. insulana) and a high incidence of armyworm (Spodoptera litura and S. exigua) and sucking pests (Bemisia tabaci, Thrips tabaci, Amrasca devastans and Aphis gossypii) in Bt cotton. Farmers also noted the incidence of a new pest, the cotton mealybug (Phenacoccus sp.), which caused major damage to the crop in most cotton-growing areas. Farmers knew little about natural enemies and diseases in their fields, but reported a high incidence of cotton leaf curl virus. Farmers still relied heavily on chemicals to control the pests in Bt cotton as they are easily persuaded by the advertisements of pesticide companies. To further understand farmers’ perceptions of Bt cotton, a survey of 75 farmers not cultivating Bt cotton was conducted. The main reason for the rejection of Bt cotton by farmers was that they were not sure of its effectiveness against insect pests. Higher prices of Bt cotton seed, perception of higher vulnerability to viral infection and greater requirements for fertilisers and irrigation were also reasons for rejection of Bt cotton cultivation.