INDIA: BT Cotton Area Trebles

The area under Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) cotton has almost trebled this year and the prospects appear bright for further rise in the acreage. This is because farmers have enjoyed a good harvest with Bt cotton, especially in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

"We have had very good results with Bt cotton this year. As a result, area under Bt cotton will rise next year," said a farmer of Nagaravi village in Madhya Pradesh's Khargone district.

Bt cotton is a genetically-modified variety in which the plant has been engineered to produce insecticidal toxin to protect cotton from bollworm attack.

The toxin is produced due to the insertion of the genes of Bacillus thuringeinsis, a soil bacteria.

The advantage of using Bt cotton is that growers need to spray fewer pesticides than for the ordinary varieties. .

"Bt cotton acreage has increased in Madhya Pradesh this year. We have distributed 3,200 packets of Bt cotton seeds for trial sowing," said Dr G.S. Kaushal, Director, Agriculture.

"The performance of Bt cotton has been good this season. It has been effective against bollworm," he said.

According to Ms Ranjana Smetacek, Director-Public Affairs, Monsanto India, the area under Bt cotton has trebled this year to 2.16 lakh hectares from 72,682 ha last year.

Monsanto holds the licence to produce Bt cotton in the country along with Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company with which it has a 50:50 joint venture.

The Government has permitted the cultivation of Bt cotton in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.

Farmers in Madhya Pradesh, in particular, are happy with the Bt cotton crop. ``We have not had any problems with pests or insects this year due to good rains,'' farmers said.

``Last year, problems were reported with Bt cotton due to the wilt disease. But this was common with all cotton crop due to hot weather,'' traders and farmers said.

Farmers in parts of Khargone district have reported a yield of five-six quintals an acre against less than four quintals last year. ``We have got good yield and higher prices too,'' they said.

Ms Smetacek said the area under cotton in Madhya Pradesh had increased ten-fold to 33,100 acres this year.

Meanwhile, Monsanto has said it will shortly commission a survey by a ``reputed research agency of world-class calibre'' on Bt cotton. ``This is to collate data on the growers' experience in pesticide spraying, cotton yields and income generated. We hope to have this data in January 2004,'' Ms Smetacek said.

This season (October 2003-September 2004), cotton production, including the Bt variety, is estimated at a record 170 lakh bales (of 170 kg) against 135 lakh bales last season.

Source: Agencies.

November 21, 2003

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Added: November 21, 2003
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