Farmers in and around Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai, who cultivated cotton, vegetables, and sunflower, are in a shock over a mysterious disease, which caused heavy damage to the crops.

Farmers from Gangaikondan, Anaithalaiyoor, Paruthikulam, Maanur and other areas surrounding Tirunelveli and Palayamkottai have cultivated cotton, vegetables and sunflower on 600 acres. They bought seeds from private companies and recently they noticed, a white liquid secreting from the stem of cotton.

Immediately, they sprayed pesticides such as Endosulfan and Carbofuran, but they found no improvement as the pest started to spread rapidly.The vegetables and sunflower crop also faced a similar problem. The farmers even tried to control the pest by spraying kerosene but that too did not yield any result.

According to Krishnammal of Anaithalaiyoor, she had cultivated two varieties of cotton on three-and-a-half acres. After she found white liquid secreting on the step, she had tried various pesticides to control the pest but it had damaged all her crops.

"I have spent Rs 15,000 for cultivating cotton per acre and also spent money for buying pests but now everything has gone", she fumes.

The farmers, who submitted a petition to the District Collector (in-charge) G Srinivasan during the grievance day meeting here on Monday demanded compensation for the damaged crops.

'If the Government does not give a compensation of Rs 10,000 per acre, we will have to sell a portion of our land to repay the money borrowed from lenders for cultivation purpose', said the farmers.

Tirunelveli District Collector, who saw the affected crops brought by the farmers, directed the officials of the Department of Agriculture to inspect the affected areas and submit a report immediately.