It's pest-proof - non-GM cotton varieties (28/6/2004)

1.It's pest-proof: IARI scientists develop new [non-GM] cotton varieties
2.India Develops New Pest-resistant Cotton Varieties

1.It's pest-proof: IARI scientists develop new [non-GM] cotton varieties
Ashok B. Sharma
Express News Service, June 25, 2004

NEW DELHI, JUNE 24: Public sector researchers in the country have developed new genotypes of cotton which can be sown in spring and harvested before the monsoon, thus making them free from pest attacks. These varieties can also be grown in non-traditional areas. These new genotypes of cotton are not transgenic varieties like Bt cotton, but have been developed from conventional breeding practices. Hence they are free from any controversy, unlike in the case of Bt cotton.

Addressing a press conference in the Capital, director of Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), Dr S. Nagarajan said, "we had the concept to develop such varieties of cotton about six years ago. Now these varieties have been developed and are undergoing station field trial in the institute’s campus. The results are encouraging."

He said that these new genotypes of cotton were successfully grown in non-traditional areas like the Sunderbans in West Bengal where the average yield was 20 quintal per hectare. The crop is of 110 days' duration as against the normal period of 150 days in the case of other cotton crops.

He added that the average yield of these genotypes is less than the normal yield of 25 to 35 quintal per hectare, but the farmers can get better returns as these varieties reduce the cost incurred on pesticide use.

2.India Develops New Pest-resistant Cotton Varieties
Express News Services, June 28, 2004 #

NEW DELHI, JUNE 27:  In a path-breaking achievement, Indian plant breeders have developed several new genotypes of cotton, which can not only revolutionise the domestic textile industry, but also bail out neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, which are likely to be affected on account of the phaseout of the MFA export quotas in December 31, 2004.

These new cotton genotypes, developed through "shuttle breeding" by a team of scientists led by Dr RP Singh and Dr Jagmail Singh of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), can be grown even in non-traditional areas of the South Asia in spring, namely February and harvested before the arrival of the monsoon in June.

The varieties which have undergone station field trial will be released for commercial cultivation after three years of countrywide coordinated field trials.

The industry feels that if these medium staple varieties are grown in non-traditional areas, India can substaintially reduce it imports of cotton, which currently are at 10 per cent. The secretary-general of Indian Cotton Mills Federation, (ICMF), DK Nair, welcomed the developments, and said "at least cotton will be available for the industry in the lean season."

"These spring-summer varieties can yield two tonne per hectare without application of any pesticide or the controversial Bt-type genetic engineering as the incidence of pests in the period is practically nil," said a scientist of the research team.

Normally cotton is sown in May and harvested in October and it requires 12 to 13 sprays of pesticides to prevent attacks from American Bollworm and leaf curl virus.

"Comparatively, these new varieties which will not require any spray of pesticides would entail a considerable savings for farmers," said the IARI director, Dr S Nagarajan.

A senior official of the agriculture ministry said, "in the next meeting of the SAARC Technical Committee on Agriculture, we will suggest to member countries like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to adopt these varieties."

According to a study conducted by Oxfam International, Bangladesh, which is not yet a cotton growing country and depends on imports of yarns and fibres for manufacturing garmets for exports is likely to be worst affected in event MFA quota phaseout.

The European Union rules of 'country of origin' prescribe that imports from any country can be restricted if it fails to show two stages of transformation in the exporting country, namely from yarn to fabric and from fabric to clothing.

In this context, a senior official of the agriculture ministry said, "Bangladesh can now go for cotton production for maintaining its exports of garments and need not explain to the importing countries on value addition. The proposed South Asia Free Trade Area (SAFTA) can soon become a reality with increase cooperation among member countries."

The IARI director, Dr Nagarajan, said, "these new genotypes are for sowing in spring, preferably in February when the temperature is cool. The early sowing of the crop will lead to pod formation in May/June when there is scorching summer heat and low humidity in the atmosphere.

The scorching heat coupled with low humidity automatically creates conditions where pests cannot occur. Thus the farmers need not use any pesticides. The pests occur when the humidity level is above 70 per cent."

Dr Nagarajan, while confirming the possibilities of these varieties being grown in Bangladesh, said, "the new genotypes were successfully grown in non-traditional areas like Sunderbans in West Bengal, where the average yield was 20 quintal per hectare."

He said that the crop is of 110 days duration as against the normal period of 150 days in case of other cotton crops. The average yield potential of the new varieties is two tonne per hectare as against 3-3.5 tonne in case of other varieties but the reduction in harvesting period by 40 days is an advantage for farmers.

"We are also experimenting to increase the yield of these new varieties," he said.

"The scheme to develop these new genotypes of early sown cotton varieties are a part of the World Bank-assisted National Agriculture Technology Project (NATP). Apart from IARI, the Haryana Ariculture University, Punjab agriculture University and Central Cotton Research Institute (CCRI) are developing similar varieties of cotton."

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