No need to use Bt cotton: experts
The News, June 09, 2011
LAHORE: Agricultural experts have said that the country could reap a record cotton harvest this year, with proper crop management and without using the currently available transgenic seeds.
"The leaf curl virus is the main worry for cotton growers of Pakistan," Seed Association of Pakistan Chairman Shahzad Malik told The News on Wednesday.
"The leaf curl virus deprives the farmers of 3-4 million bales per year and none of the currently available Bt cotton varieties including that of Monsanto has solution to this problem," Malik said.
He said this menace could only be checked through prudent agriculture extension services by both the provincial governments and seed suppliers.
He said Pakistani farmer is already obtaining around 700 kg of cotton per hectare against global average of 735 kg. He said India despite sowing Bt cotton on 90 percent of its cultivated area is obtaining only 506 kg of cotton per hectare. He said that the cotton production target of 15 million bales set by the government is achievable.
"Dr Fred Bourland the director of Northeast Research and Extension Center University of Arkansas has said that transgenic seeds have their uses but they are not panacea for success," Malik said.
Pakistan Farmers Associates Director Hamid Malhi said that hype about Bt cotton success was overstated.
"The main issue that worries stakeholders in India is that the gains from Bt cotton seed have been stagnant and unaffected by the increase in area of Bt cotton from 5.6 percent in 2004 to 85 percent in 2010," alhi said.
Cotton yield in India was 463 kg per hectare before the introduction of Bt cotton and has increased to 506 kg when the Bt cotton area has increased to 90 percent.
He said even the Indian Central Institute for Cotton Director Dr Keshav Kranthi in his recent article in Cotton24/7 admitted that that Bt cotton technology was not singularly responsible for the dramatic improvement of cotton fortunes in India, it was pertinent to examine other probable factors that may have contributed to the higher yields.
Imidacloprid has been used in India since 2000 for protection against leaf hopper contributing to at least 25 percent to 30 percent yield enhancement in the conventional hybrids, long before Bt cotton was introduced in the country, Malhi quoted Kranthi.
According to Dr Kranthi the increase in yield may have also been due to other major changes, including the increase in cotton area in Gujarat from 1.5 million hectare in 2000 to 2.6 million hectare in 2009, increase in hybrid cotton area from 40 percent to 90 percent, and introduction of six or seven new insecticide molecules for bollworm control and sucking pest management.
Dr Bourland in a recent article said the recent concern with transgenic seeds (Bt) is increasing resistance notably the widespread use and misuse of glyphosate that has led to weed resistance. Currently 16 weed species worldwide are resistant to glyphosate
Dr Ghazanfar of Faisalabad Research Institute has said that if the farmers clean the fields of all weeds including those on water channels before sowing the crop, the threat of pest attack would reduce by 50 percent. In fact the bollworms breed on the vegetables that are grown before cotton.