The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, plans to introduce 21 varieties of Bt cotton and 8 varieties of non-Bt cotton across the country. The trial at Coimbatore will begin soon. After testing, some of these varieties will be released for mass production in the market for the next kharif season, top officials of CICR said.
KR Kranthi, director, CICR, said that the issue was discussed at the recent meet of the regional committee of the ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) with the Maharashtra agriculture minister.
A decision has been taken to begin test of 21 varieties of Bt cotton (of American variety) and we plan to look at the results in November after which seed production will commence on a mass scale, Kranthi said. In the American cotton, the Bt gene has been introduced in 21 seed varieties. These seeds can be reused by farmers and will cost Rs 150-200 per kg compared with R2,000 for the Bt cotton hybrid, Kranthi said. These seeds, suitable for high-density planting, were tested across 15 centres in different agro-eco zones.
By mid-November, the institute is expected to identify the best varieties for each of the agro eco zone, he said. These desi varieties are expected to 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.
The American variety has the Cry1Ac (Bt gene), which is effective against the American bollworm and is not covered by intellectual property rights. So far the country was covered by only long-duration hybrid which takes 210-240 days to be harvested. These were not suitable for 50% to 60% of the area under cotton, largely rain-fed region. Therefore CICR took to high-density planting using compact short-duration varieties — 150-160 days — which will escape late season pink bollworm infestation.
According to Kranthi, one or two varieties will be tested per region and CICR will be picking up the best suited varieties for each region. Sometimes, one single variety could also turn out to be the best for all regions and the test results will have to be seen, he said. These varieties will be made available for production on a commercial scale for farmers from the kharif season of 2017.