Gold Silver Reports — Desi GM Cotton Seeds to Compete with Monsanto — India is expected to unveil in November two sets of cotton varieties that will cost less than other hybrids but give higher yields, as well as resist whitefly, pink bollworm and leaf curl virus that often damage the crop in the country. These seeds, which will compete with US multinational Monsanto’s Bollgard II, will likely be distributed to farmers starting next year.
The long-staple local or desi seeds and short-duration American cotton varieties were developed by the Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur. These seeds, suitable for high-density planting, were tested across 15 centres in different agro-eco zones, CICR Director KR Kranthi said.
The American variety has the Cry1Ac (Bt gene), which Kranthi said is still effective against the American bollworm and is not covered by intellectual property rights. Earlier this year, the agriculture ministry said there was no patent on genetically modified Bt cotton (Bollgard-mon 531) brought by Monsanto 14 years ago to India.
The institute has been researching on the varieties for the past eight years, Kranthi said. One of the targets of the research was reducing the time between planting and harvest. The American cotton it developed is a short-duration variety.
“So far the country was covered by only long-duration hybrid which takes 210-240 days to be harvested. They were not suitable for 50% to 60% of the area under cotton, largely rainfed region. Therefore we took this global approach of going for highdensity planting using compact short-duration varieties -150160 days -which will escape late season pink bollworm infestation,“ Kranthi said.
By mid-November, the institute is expected to identify the best varieties for each of the agro eco zone, he said.
The cost of the 14 long-staple desi varieties is half that of Bt cotton hybrid, which currently costs `. 30,000-35,000 to plant on 1 hectare. The output will be similar or more than the Bt cotton hybrid at 20-25 quintal per hectare, while the fibre quality will be similar, he said The desi varieties will offer better pest resistance. They are highly resistant to the white flies and immune to cotton leaf curl virus disease, a major menace in Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab where cotton is planted on more than 15 lakh hectares.
In the American cotton, the Bt gene has been introduced in 21seed varieties. These seeds can be reused by farmers and will cost Rs 150-200 kg compared with Rs 2,000 for the Bt-cotton hybrid.
The seeds were tested at the state agricultural universities of Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Telangana and Maharashtra. — Neal Bhai Reports
Desi GM Cotton Seeds to Compete with Monsanto