While most industry experts have predicted a 15-20% increase in area under cotton for the 2017-18 season, Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)-Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) has preferred a more conservative approach towards crop outlook in the country. It is predicted that the area under cotton is expected to increase by nearly 7-10 % due to higher cotton prices last season (2016-17), top officials of the institute have said.
Last season, the area under cotton during 2016-17 was 105 lakh hectares and there could be a 7-10% increase in this, ICAR-CICR director M S Ladaniya said.
“The weather is also predicted to be favourable during 2017-18 season with the early and an above average rainfall in most of the cotton growing regions,” he said, adding that farmers are unlikely to go in for higher cropping after seeing what happened to other commodities after a bumper crop.
In the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, cotton sowing began on a brisk note and by May 15, 60-70% of the cotton sowing has been completed.
“Initial indications are that during the current season the cotton area sown would be around 6 lakh hectares in Haryana (as against 4.98 lakh hectares during 2016-17) and 4 lakh hectare in Punjab (as against 2.56 lakh hectares in 2016-17),” he said.
In Haryana, farmers are expected to cut area under pulses as well as guar to grow more cotton, Ladaniya pointed out.
“In Punjab, cotton is likely to make revival in several south-western districts where paddy was grown in the last years. In Rajasthan, the area under cotton is expected to remain static at around 4.5 lakh hectares. There would be a likely reduction in the area under desi cotton in North India. Bumper yields with hirsutum hybrids (due to the absence of leaf curl virus and minimal damage due to whitefly) and low price of desi cotton during 2016-17 would be the reasons,” he said.
CICR has been working on incorporating BT gene into some desi varieties since these are drought resistant and not prone to whitefly.
However, reaching the commercial production levels will take some time, he said. The country will come back to desi cotton varieties in due course of time but as of now there is more pull towards BT cotton, he said. The country has been using hybrid varieties for the last 40-50 years as opposed to countries such as Australia, Brazil and China that use compact varieties of cotton with high density plantation. India needs to move to such varieties with higher cropping density and with medium to long staple fibre and shorter crop durations, he said.
According to Ladaniya, the predictions of a good monsoon season and its timely onset have raised hopes of a good crop in the predominantly rainfed central and southern zones such as Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh.
The strategy to contain pink boll worm damage suggested by ICAR-CICR and implemented by state agricultural departments and state agricultural universities during 2016-17, paid rich dividends in central zone and south zone, helping farmers realise good yield in 2016-17, he said.
“Cotton prices in the local markets remained robust during January to April, 2017 that added to the profits of cotton farmers. Cotton area is likely to increase in central and south India also during 2017-18,” he said.