April 20, 2009 3:47:28 am
After ten long years of research punctuated with technical delays,the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur is ready with 20,000 packets of desi Bt cotton seeds for distribution to farmers starting next month.
The Bikaneri Narma (BN Bt),as it is called,is a variety and not a hybrid which was the only option available to farmers till date. As reported first by The Indian Express in September 2005,this variety will enable farmers to replicate seeds for the next sowing.
The seeds will be available for Rs 200 per 2 kg bag as against Rs 750 per 450 gm bag of hybrids currently sold by national and multinational companies like Mahyco,Rasi,Ankur and Nuziveedu.
Since a variety needs very little fertiliser and pesticide,the farmer can save nearly 4,000 per acre in the first year (Rs 1,000 on seeds,Rs 2,000 on pesticides and Rs 1,000 on fertilisers) and about Rs 4,500 per acre every subsequent year since he wont have to buy seeds. One seed of the desi Bt can produce up to 200-300 seeds.
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The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),the apex body which clears GM crops,had okayed the Indian strain on May 2 last year.
This year we are giving it only to Maharashtra,Andhra Pradesh,Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat since Bikaneri Narma is beneficial in drought-tolerant,non-irrigated areas and is also resistant to sucking pests like jassids and aphids, said CICR Director Keshav Kranthi.
The CICR will supply the bags to state seed companies which will then distribute them to farmers, he said.
Maharashtra will get 13,000 packets,followed by Madhya Pradesh (up to 3,000),Andhra Pradesh (up to 1,000) and Gujarat (500). The CICR will retain about 3,000 packets for multiplication. The states will also be given foundation seeds for multiplication next year. Indian cotton scientists were able to introduce the Bt gene Cry 1 AC in the Rajasthan variety Bikaneri Narma three years ago with their own standardised protocol (method) called primary transgenic. Their initial attempt to use Monsantos somatic embryogenesis method on Indian varieties had failed.
Biotechnologically,cotton is acknowledged to be a very tough crop. Even the Monsanto method was successful on only two American varieties,Coker 312 and Coker 310. Similar efforts had failed in China too. Besides the CICR,only China has succeeded in developing its own protocol called Pollen 2 Pathway.
We will also bring our Bt hybrid NHH 44 possibly this or surely by next year. It is currently awaiting GEAC approval, Kranthi said. The hybrids,which require more fertilisers,pesticides and irrigation than a variety,perform better in irrigated patches than varieties. Thats why hybrids are also needed.
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