Jul. 16, 2019
As yields plummet experts emphasis use of New Gen seeds, better farm practices urged
Pest menace and poor farm management, coupled with water scarcity and lack of push for new seed varieties are reducing cotton yields, thereby threatening the future of the country’s cotton production.
Repeated pest attacks, including pink bollworm (Pectinophora gossypiella), spotted bollworm (Earias insulana) and American bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), and other climatic diseases affect cotton fields across India.Experts have voiced concern over the future of cotton production in the country.
India’s per hectare productivity of cotton during 2018-19 works out to merely 420.72 kg per hectare or (2.47 bales per hectare), the Cotton Association of India (CAI) has said. Cotton crop is estimated to be the lowest in more than a decade at 312 lakh bales (each of 170 kg) for the 2018-19 season.
“Cotton productivity in India this year is the lowest in a decade. Bringing larger area into cultivation of cotton to increase production is not the solution for India. What is required is to improve the health of cotton sector to increase productivity,” said Atul Ganatra, President, CAI, adding that it required urgent attention and concerted efforts by all stakeholders. “If the trend continues, the day is not far off when India will turn into a net cotton importing country,” he added.
The Cotton Advisory Board (CAB), which is chaired by the Textile Commissioner of India, has projected the cotton crop for 2018-19 at 337 lakh bales, which brings the yield levels at 468 kg (or 2.75 bale) per hectare, which is the lowest in at least a decade.
Notably, as against India’s projected cotton yield of about 485-500 kg per hectare, China’s yield hovers around 1,755 kg. Due to lower yield and lack of precision farming in cotton cultivation, India is set to lose its numero uno cotton grower tag to China.
Indian Cotton Federation President, J Thulasidharan expressed the need for spreading awareness among farmers about better farming techniques and allowing new seed varieties for better yields.
“The yield depends on agronomy and climatic conditions. Seed plays an important role but the government isn’t acting towards introducing and allowing new generation seeds. The current Bt seed has exceeded its life. Also, we need farmers to be educated about precision farming techniques. We have to do it very scientifically to achieve highest possible yield,” said Thulasidharan.
New seed varieties
However, research is progressing towards new hybrids in cotton. But the researchers do not suggest a complete switch from Bt to non-Bt or indigenous seeds. VN Waghmare, Director (Acting), Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, said, “We have few hybrid varieties in BG2 such as DCH-32 and other hybrids from public and private sector. These hybrids have similar extra-long staple quality. DSH-32 hybrids have better yield potential than our existing varieties. Because the government is also planning to subsitute the imports by our own varieties, so we are recommending hybrids.”
Waghmare added that the cotton varieties are sensitive to various agro-climatic conditions. “These issues are farm management issues, which we can manage. In other countries, unlike India, they have limited time for sowing and harvest, therefore, pest management becomes more or less one-time,” he said.
The focus now shifts from seeds to farm practices. Under experimental conditions, India has achieved yield of upto 1,200-1,500 kg per hectare in some isolated places. But for a wider coverage, farmers’ awareness and government push for new variety seeds is seen imperative.