Nearly 10 years of hard work has finally yielded results with the ICAR-Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) developing four Bt-based straight varieties of cotton by introducing Cry 1Ac gene into four different straight varieties.
The institute has signed a memorandum of understanding with Mahabeej for mass production of both foundation and certified seeds. The seeds will be distributed to farmers of adopted villages under the Prime Minister’s programme — Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav — for demonstration this Kharif season.
CICR acting director VN Waghmare told TOI that these varieties — ICAR-CICR GJHV 374Bt, ICAR-CICR Suraj Bt, ICAR-CICR Rajat Bt and ICAR-CICR PKV 081 Bt — besides having resistance against American and spotted bollworms are comparable in yield, fibre length and strength to the Bt hybrids. But since the straight varieties are for smaller duration, if sowed in time in mid-June, farmers can have protection from pink bollworm as well if the crop is harvested early and not extended to December-January as has been the practice. “Being straight varieties, these will also allow farmers to produce his own seeds and there will not be any need to buy it from the market at least for three-four years. These varieties can be cultivated in high density plantation,” he said.
Suman Bala Singh, principal scientist (plant breeding) explained that since the existing Bt hybrids with Monsanto gene have become prone to attack of pink bollworm, these varieties too will not have a protection from pink bollworm. “Spraying will be required for control of sucking pests and pink bollworm only as and when they appear. Other agronomic practices will be the same as recommended for any other variety of that region,” she said.
CICR has been working on developing straight Bt varieties for long since 2008-09. During the crop season of 2016-17, 21 Bt genotypes containing the Cry 1Ac gene were evaluated at 18 locations pan India under the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on cotton under a 67.5X30 cm in north zone and 75X10cm at all other locations. Based on their performance, eight genotypes were approved and released by the central varietal release committee under the chairmanship of JS Sandhu, former deputy director general (crop sciences) in ICAR.
Last year (2018-19), seed production was taken up for four varieties listed above which are to be distributed to farmers this year and given to Mahabeej for commercialization, multiplication and mass production. This year, the multiplication of seeds of these varieties will be raised to about 30 quintals. Of the four varieties, one is a CICR variety — Suraj — while the GJHV variety is from Gujarat and the Rajat and PKV081 varieties are from Panjabrao Deshmukh Krishi Vidyapeeth.
The director said that CICR was coordinating with Mahabeej and the state government for production of seeds commercially. Besides that, there will be farm demonstrations under the tribal sub plan and the SC sub plan. CICR has already had a meeting on this with the state agriculture secretary Eknath Dawale on April 8, 2019