India to invest Rs 1bn in advanced Bt cotton project
India's Ministry of Agriculture has given its nod for developing an advanced version of Bt cotton that will be resistant to multiple pests and diseases.
The Rs. 1 billion project aims to not only provide the cotton crop with viral immunity, but also create genes that are resistant to jassids – a leaf hopping pest.
A portion of the fund would also be utilized to develop farm tools including cotton-picking machines.
Speaking to fibre2fashion, Dr. Swapan Kumar Datta, Deputy Director General (Crop Science) at Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) said, “There is a proposal for working on the latest technology of Bt cotton and combining it with the other genes of traits that are required for cotton improvement, in partnership with the private sector, agricultural research universities and ICAR.”
Elaborating further, he says, “It will be a national programme and this project will address all issues of advancements of biotechnology in organic cotton as well as indigenous cotton varieties. Many of our varieties that do not have Bt technology are not in demand owing to preference for Bt cotton that provides protection against several pests and diseases. As a result, many of our indigenous varieties are not being used by the farmers.”
Explaining the rationale for the new project, he says, “There is huge demand from Europe for organic cotton and they love to receive organic cotton from India. This issue needs to be addressed so that we can have an integrated approach for research in cotton and the value added product will always fetch higher price. Eventually, this will benefit farmers as they will get higher prices for their superior quality cotton.”
“Another aspect that we would like to focus on through this project is on a concept of using a different architecture of the cotton crop which will be something like flowering and ball formation. Today handpicking of balls is very difficult and it has costs and is time consuming. By developing a different kind of harvest, it will be suitable for the particular architecture of the crop. This new architecture will have advanced Bt technology. So when you combine all of these things together, the cotton obtained will be fulfilling all requirements of all cotton users,” he adds.
Apprising on the cost involved for the project, he reveals, “The Ministry of Agriculture, ICAR and various agricultural universities in India will work on the project with a capital outlay of Rs. 1 billion. Some work has already started and the project will go on for about three years.”
Commenting on the likely benefits of the advanced Bt cotton technology, he opines, “It will be tremendously beneficial to India's economy because cotton itself is an industry of Rs. 300-400 billion. If we have a multipurpose cotton crop coming up, everyone will be looking for the Indian market and Indian cotton as an important product, thus giving a tremendous boost to Indian agriculture.”
Fibre2fashion News Desk - India