68% lower incomes for Bt Cotton farmers in Maharashtra: MEC report PART 1 (13/4/2006)

Bt Cotton Performance in Maharashtra – Kharif 2005

- Report of the Monitoring & Evaluation Committee [MEC]


Bt Cotton, under the Monsanto-owned proprietary branded technology of Bollgard, was officially allowed for commercial cultivation in India starting from 2002. Kharif 2005 saw the fourth year of cultivation in India, including in Maharashtra. The companies claim that 30.55 lakh acres have seen Bt Cotton planted this year in the country, with Maharashtra having the dubious distinction of planting the largest number of Bt Cotton acres at a figure of 14.75 lakh seed packets sold in the state. Even in Kharif 2004, Maharashtra had the largest area of Bt Cotton planted in the country, surpassing Gujarat[1][from 54000 acres in Kharif 2003 to 5.25 lakh acres by Kharif 2004, as per Monsanto-India, quoted in Financial Express]. This is probably not too surprising, given that cotton cultivation of any kind is the highest in Maharashtra. Last year, Maharashtra was also one of the largest producers in terms of the lakhs of bales produced in the state.

About 97% of the cotton crop in Maharashtra is estimated to be grown under rainfed conditions and grown mostly on suitable black cotton soils. Hybrids cover about 73% of the cotton area of the state, while improved cultivars are grown on the remaining land. The main cotton regions of the state include Vidarbha region, Marathwada, Khandesh and Deccan canal regions.

In 2002-03, the Maharashtra state government’s reports point out that on an average, 3-5 sprays were needed both for Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton. This was based on the monitoring of 904 plots or 10% of Bt Cotton farmers in that year, selected randomly from every village and from selecting 10 plants per plot for recording observations.

The reports also said that bollworm infestation was low that year and that there was a marginal difference in bollworm infestation on Bt Cotton [5-7%] and on non-Bt Cotton [7-12%]. The number of larvae per plant observed on both Bt and non-Bt Cotton by the official survey in that year is given below:

Sl No

Name of the Bollworm

Average number of larvae/plant

Bt Cotton hybrids

Non-Bt Cotton hybrids


American Bollworm

1.5 to 2.5

2 to 3.5


Spotted Bollworm

0.1 to 0.5

0.1 to 0.5


Pink Bollworm

0.07 to 0.1

0.22 to 0.30

Farmers who took part in the study also reported that the average boll weight of the Mahyco Bt Cotton hybrids grown that year was very less compared with non-Bt Cotton hybrids (nearly half).

Many complaints about wilt infestation were received from Yavatmal, Amravati and Nanded districts on Bt Cotton varieties, notes the official report [“A brief note on Bt Cotton in Maharashtra 2002-03”, shared by the Director-Agriculture]. CICR studied this phenomenon and reported that it was not pathogenic wilt but a physiological disorder and named it ‘para-wilt’.

The government’s report also notes that ‘as per the feedback of the Officers, the performance of Bt Cotton as compared with other popular hybrid varieties is not satisfactory. These non-Bt varieties yield better than the Bt varieties’.

In 2003-04, the available brief government reports observe that the retention of bolls of first flush is observed more in Bt Cotton fields and that the attack of bollworm was low on Bt cotton.

In 2004-05, 265,200 packets of Bt Cotton were sold in Maharashtra as per the state government. The government’s monitoring report pointed out that there was no significant difference with regard to squares, flowers and bolls between Bt Cotton and non-Bt Cotton. The percentage infestation of sucking pests was found to be more in Bt Cotton than in non-Bt Cotton – 12 to 15% in Bt Cotton and 7-10% in non-Bt Cotton. Once again, parawilting was reported on Bt Cotton from districts like Yeotmal, Nanded, Aurangabad and Amravati. The yield of Bt Cotton was found to be higher than the standard check by around 15%, as per the government’s monitoring.

The state government’s report also notes that in Maharashtra, ‘the area under organically grown cotton is increasing at a faster rate’. The organic farmers in Nasik and Amravati divisions are not using Bt Cotton hybrids but are successful in getting higher yields than Bt Cotton, the report points out. The state government also found that farmers using IPM practices are managing disease and pest problems successfully even by reducing chemical pesticides. The produce from such approaches has more demand and fetches better prices, a government report notes. The department’s conclusion on Bt Cotton from its observations in 2004-05 says that “by using Bt Cotton, farmers can safeguard their co

Go to a Print friendly Page

Email this Article to a Friend

Back to the Archive