1. Agriculture World

Unapproved Varieties of HtBt Cotton Seeds Harming India's Cotton Production

Dr. Bajaj added that in order for cotton farmers to compete globally, technical help is essential. In order to assist farmers and make India a significant cotton producer in the world.

Shruti Kandwal
Lack of acceptance of new technology and effective agronomic techniques.
Lack of acceptance of new technology and effective agronomic techniques.

The increasing use of unapproved herbicide-tolerant Bt (HtBt) cotton seeds across the nation, which creates a threat to the health and income of farmers, has been brought to the attention of stakeholders by the Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII). To make sure that farmers have access to improved varieties coming from proper regulatory systems, FSII urges that the Government of India approve the new HtBt variety.

"Legal HtBt deregulation would help farmers in managing cotton crops much better by providing them with access to high-quality HTBt seeds that have been legally approved. They will achieve superior weed control while spending less on labor and pest management, and they will also save time. According to Dr. Shivendra Bajaj, Executive Director of the Federation of Seed Industry of India and Alliance for Agri Innovation (AAI), it will reduce crop loss and assure yields.

Dr. Bajaj added that in order for cotton farmers to compete globally, technical help is essential. In order to assist farmers and make India a significant cotton producer in the world, we think the government will acknowledge the issue and make the GM regulatory process predictable and science based.

Proprietary companies frequently change crop types to avoid yield losses that appear a few years after a variety is initially used. The goal is to increase production by enabling the seed to handle new pest challenges.

According to Ram Kaundinya, Director General, Federation of Seed Industry of India, cotton cultivation in India has huge potential and room for improvement. These improvements can be made by embracing new technologies like HtBt cotton and implementing new practices like High Density Planting System (HDPS). "Bt Cotton currently covers 95% of the cotton production area in India," he continued. Despite these yield increases, India still remains far behind China, Brazil, and the United States in terms of productivity. Lack of acceptance of new technology and effective agronomic techniques, poor control of more recent pests like the pink bollworm, and poor weed management are all contributing factors to the recent decline in yield and productivity.

“On the other hand, demand from the textile industry is growing rapidly. They need 45 million bales of cotton by 2026 while we are now stuck around 32 to 35 million bales production per annum. If we have to meet this requirement and also not sacrifice our cotton exports it is imperative that we introduce new technologies including HTBt, HDPS and eventually mechanical picking of cotton.”

Farmers have needed to resort to planting the illegal variety of HtBt seeds because the government-fixed price of Rs 810 per packet for regular Bt cotton has been delayed, and the unapproved seeds help them in weed control and help them save money. The illegal variety is sold at a 60% premium over the government-fixed price.

Since 2017, farmers have been growing HtBt cotton illegally, and the number of acres is increasing every year. This indicates that farmers must immediately adopt new technologies. According to Dr. Shivendra Bajaj, despite paying high prices, farmers' crops are still in danger because of poor quality concerns put on by using illegal seeds. Since the illegal seeds include qualities that are unknown and unapproved, they might infect legal seeds, harming legitimate seed growers.

“Bt Cotton cultivation in India has completed 20 years. The farmers have immensely benefited from this technology and today, India is just behind China in cotton production. Several studies have been conducted to assess the impact of the adoption of Bt Cotton in India and all have found substantial increase in cotton yields, farmer's profits and also a sizable increase in socio-economic benefits for rural households. The yields and productivity have been on an upward trajectory since,” said Mr Kaundinya.

In the 2020-21 crop year (July-June,) the ministry of agriculture while fixing the price of a packet of Bt cotton-II abolished the trait value payable to the license holders (Bayer-Mahyco), thus allowing reduction in the prices to the farmers. Unless technology intervention is expedited, it will be difficult for India to meet the cotton requirement of 45 million bales in the coming five years.

Indian Cotton Yield since last 5 Years

Years

Area under cotton*

(in lakh hectare)

Area under Bt. cotton**

(in lakh hectare)

Production (in lakh bales)

Yield (kg per hectare)

2015-16

122.92

106.83

300.05

415

2016-17

108.28

89.43

325.77

511

2017-18

124.29

110.76

328.05

477

2018-19

126.58

117.81

287.08

386

2019-20***

125.84

117.47

322.67

436

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