The area under cotton crop in the state this year is lowest since 1980 even as the government had set the target to increase it to 5 lakh hectares as compared to around 4 lakh hectares last year.The crop is sown over just 2.56 lakh hectares this year, the lowest in 35 years. As per the Agriculture Department, the area under cotton crop had not gone down below 3 lakh hectares since 1980.Even during 1998-2004, when the entire cotton belt witnessed repeated crop failures due to American bollworm attack, the total area under its cultivation had remained more than 4.5 lakh hectares. However, the trend has reversed in the past few years and touched a new low this year.“Factors like last year’s whitefly attack on the crop have played a major deterrent. Farmers in some pockets were not ready to sow cotton crop,” said Dr JS Bains, Director, Agriculture.A senior official, however, said the allotment of a large number of agriculture tubewell connections had deterred farmers from sowing cotton.“The government has provided tubewell connections to thousands of farmers before the cotton sowing season, making water easily available for the irrigation of crops like paddy. Instead of cotton, most farmers thus opted for paddy, which will ensure good returns,” he added.