Of the 2.85 lakh acres of Bt cotton planted in Tamil Nadu in 2007, 29% up from 2.2 lakh acres in 2006, 92,000 acres are in Perambalur district. In the season beginning July-August, 2008, if we get enough quantity of the Bollgard II seeds we will plant only cotton in our entire land, N Venkatachalam and S Kamaraj leading cotton cultivators in the region told FE.
They said before the arrival of Bt cotton in 2003, they had abandoned cotton cultivation, the traditional cash crop in that arid region, owing to unmanageable pest attacks. All our earnings from the sale of cotton, which did not exceed two quintals an acre, were to be given to the pesticide distributors. Even after 15-16 spraying we were not able to control the pests and the entire crop was damaged, Venkatachalam said.
He said farmers now prefer Bollgard II as it protects the cotton bolls from three types of worms and also from the defoliating pests, though its price for a 450 gm packet, at Rs 925, is more than Rs 750 for Bollgard.
Officials of Monsanto, the suppliers of Bt technology, said, Bollgard II technology has a unique and superior double gene technology, Cry 1Ac and Cry2Ab derived from soil-borne bacterium, and provides in-built protection against bollworms and spodoptera caterpillar.
The farmers said there was confusion in the market in the pricing of the Bt cotton seeds. Sometimes traders sell at prices much higher than the MRP. At other times they sell at lower prices. This makes us doubt about the genuineness of the seeds, farmers said.
(The trip to cotton fields in Perambalur was sponsored by Monsanto)