A year ago, around this time, cotton ginners in Maharashtra had begun an effort in the state to improve productivity of cotton after they discovered that cotton from Gujarat commanded a higher price. What began as an effort to mentor some 40 farmers in 10 talukas of Jalgaon district, resulted in 50-70% improvement in productivity. Where the yield was usually 8-10 quintals rose to more than 15 quintals. With sowing expecting to commence by May 30, the Khandesh Gin/Press Factory Owners Association has repeated the effort this year.
This is an effort to increase awareness among farmers and we have succeeded to some extent, Pradeep Jain, president of the Association said.
The logic is if the farmers produce better quality and quantity of cotton, the ginners also stand to gain. What made Jain more happy is the fact that for the first time, Maharashtra overtook Gujarat in terms of cotton production with a record yield of some 1 crore bales. Usually Maharashtra produces70-80 lakh bales. This year some 100 farmers are being taken on board for mentoring by the association that has roped in experts and stakeholders including more seed companies and fertiliser firms to advise farmers.
Our role will be to advise farmers, B D Jain, senior scientist who is coordinating the mentoring effort told FE.
While rainfed cotton seed varieties yield 8-10 quintals per hectare, irrigated cotton seed varieties yield around 35-40 quintals per hectare, he said, adding that the effort would be to focus on irrigated cotton seed varieties. This week, an initial effort has begun and next week onwards we shall chalk out a plan for the entire season on the mentoring effort, he said.
Around 13 talukas of Jalgaon district have been selected where 10-20 farm visits will be conducted. A team of technical experts has been constituted by the association that would advise farmers from time to time about the seed quality, fertilisers, nutrients and pesticides. The cost per acre comes up to `40,000 which will be borne by the farmer but the advice would come from the association. Last year, the association visited the Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association (ATIRA) and Sircot in Mumbai.
ATIRA is an autonomous non-profit association for textile research. It is the largest of its kind in India for textile and allied industries and has memberships of ginning, spinning, weaving, process houses and composite textile units. After the visit, the association began to rope in experts and progressive cotton farmers in the Jalgaon region of Maharashtra where there is a high concentration of ginning units. These farmers will act as mentors and educate other farmers, Jain said. Jalgaon has some 4.5 lakh hectare under cotton and around 1,50,000 farmers cultivate the crop. Jain says if productivity improves by even 10-20% the effort will be a success. Maharashtra processes about 80 lakh bales annually.