In a bid to deal with increasing incident of pest attacks on the cotton crop, especially in the bordering districts of Punjab and Rajasthan, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has developed a seed variety f-2288, which shows tolerance to sucking insect-pests and other diseases.
“It is expected to become popular in the bordering areas of Punjab and Rajasthan where good quality canal water is a limiting factor and Bt cotton is not performing as good as in other regions of the state,” Baldev Singh Dhillon, VC, PAU, told FE.
Dhillon said the new cotton variety would be helpful to farmers specially in the Hanumangarh and Sri Ganganagar districts (Rajasthan) and Muktsar, Fazilka, Abohar and Ferozepur disricts (Punjab) where irrigation facilities are not robust.
At present, farmers in Punjab mostly grow Bt cotton, the only genetically modified crop approved for cultivation in the country. This kharif season, cotton has been sown more than 4.5 lakh hectare of agricultural land in the state. However more than 1.3 lakh hectare of cotton field had been attacked by whitefly, a common pest.
Dhillon said the field trials of f 2288 non-Bt cotton variety has sown encouraging results in the large scale field trial and the yield has been quite similar to the Bt cotton variety. “While only a small group of farmers have sown this cotton variety after it was approved by Punjab state varietals approval committee recently and next year it would be taken up for large scale commercial cultivation,” R K Gumber, a senior scientist with crop improvement division of PAU said.
About the key benefit of the new cotton variety, Gumber said that the cost of seed would much lower that Bt cotton variety and the yield would be similar to Bt cotton variety. “However inputs costs like pesticides spray and irrigation for the growing f 2288 variety would be much less than what it requires for the growing bt cotton variety,” he claimed.
Besides the f 2288 variety, PAU few months back also released another non-Bt cotton variety f 2383 for high density cultivation. “The variety is suitable for sowing under high density plantation system. Due to its short and compact plant type, f 2383 is also amenable to mechanical picking. Cultivation of this variety or variety(ies) derived from it may help in overcoming labour shortage,” Dhillon of PAU said.
The use of Bt cotton in the country has grown exponentially since its introduction in 2002. In the last one decade, Bt cotton hybrids increased cotton yield from 4 – 5 quintals per hectare to 8-10 quintals per hectare in rainfed conditions. The Bt gene is derived from a soil bacterium and is named after its initials. It is toxic to bollworms which are stealthy and stubborn pests which cotton crop.
In the current kharif season, cotton has been grown in more than 10.5 million hectare of land across the country.
Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are the key cotton producing states in the country.