Bt cotton failure forces govt to promote native seeds
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New Delhi: With bollworm developing resistance to Bt cotton crop, the government has decided to promote cultivation of indigenous varieties of the crop in a big way this year. In 2015-16 crop year (July-June), there was a significant damage to cotton crop because of whitefly and pink bollworm pest attack in states like Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
Almost 90% of the country’s cotton cultivation area is under Bt cotton, which was introduced in 2002. A decision to revive cultivation of indigenous varieties of cotton was taken in a meeting on Monday, headed by agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh.
Senior officials of the agriculture ministry, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) and seed industry companies were also present in the meeting. “The issue of pests like pinkbollworm and whitefly developing resistance to Bt cotton crop was discussed at length with all stakeholders yesterday. To protect farmers, it was decided to popularise cultivation of desi varieties this year,” a senior agriculture ministry official told PTI. Though the productivity of native varieties is lower by 10-15% as compared to Bt cotton, but expenditure on pesticides and sprays would be less and farmers can reuse the seeds for next sowing, the official said.
Prior to the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002, at least 25% of the cotton cultivation area was under indigenous varieties. The efforts would be to regain this lost area, the official added. Already, the ministry has issued directives to states like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan to use only recommended native seeds for preventing pest attacks. These states have also been asked to go for timely sowing of the crop and keep a close watch on the movement of whitefly besides ensuring timely sprinkling of pesticides to check its menace.
Cotton sowing begins this month in Punjab and Haryana which have irrigation, while sowing in the rest of the country will begin with the onset of the next monsoon rains in June. As per the second advance estimate of the agriculture ministry, cotton output is expected to decline to 33.51 million bales in 2015-16 from 35.47 million bales (of 170kg each) in the year-ago period due to pest attack in some states and poor monsoon.