The Crop Diversification Programme in Punjab has received a good response with the state nearly accomplishing its goal to bring 12.5 lakh acres under cotton cultivation, up from 9.7 lakh acres in 2019, an official said on Tuesday.
Diversification of the cropping pattern away from paddy helps in saving water, improving soil fertility, avoiding winter stubble burning and preserving the environment.
Additional Chief Secretary (Development) Vishwajeet Khanna said the state has recorded sowing of cotton over 10 lakh acres and the target of 12.5 lakh acres would be achieved soon.
He said the Agriculture Department has made timely and adequate arrangement of fertilizer and hybrid seeds of BT cotton well in advance to ensure sowing of cotton crop across the state amid the lockdown due to COVID-19.
Cotton is the second major traditional crop of southern Punjab due to which the Malwa region is known as the 'Cotton Belt'.
The Additional Chief Secretary said in the districts of Malwa, cotton sowing has already crossed the mark of 10 lakh acres.
The last year target of 9.80 lakh acres (3.92 lakh hectares) was enhanced to 12.5 lakh acres (five lakh hectares) this year, which is expected to be completed in the first week of June.
He said the sowing had been over by the last week of May during previous seasons but would be completed a bit later this year as wheat harvesting started only on May 15 this year with a delay of two weeks amid COVID-19 restrictions.
Giving details of cotton sowing in the districts, Khanna said so far Bathinda district has recorded the maximum sowing of 3.39 lakh acres, followed by Fazilka with 2.38 lakh acres and 2.10 lakh acres in Mansa.
In Sri Muktsar Sahib district, 2.02 lakh acres area is under cotton cultivation while Sangrur recorded 7,800 acres, Faridkot 5,800 acres, Barnala 1,870 acres and 1,257 acres in Moga district.
A total of 6.62 lakh acres was brought under cotton cultivation in 2018, followed by 9.7 lakh acres in 2019.
The department has also coordinated with the Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) to buy last season's remaining cotton produce from farmers at the assured MSP and for this 19 markets have already been made operational in the cotton belt.
The CCI has also assured its support for the purchase of cotton in the next season.