Indian Cotton Farmers’ Weeding Challenges and the Potential Role for Technology Infusion

12/2/2014

 

Hybrid Bollgard Bt Seeds benefits continue; Labour availability, Weeding, Sucking Pest pose challenges to cotton farming

Monsanto’s Centre of Excellence at Mehekar demonstrates agronomic practices to achieve better yields with optimum use of resources

Over the past decade, Maharashtra farmers have contributed to India’s cotton revolution by doubling production choosing to plant hybrid cotton seeds with in-the-seed insect-protection Bt cotton technologies on over 90 per cent of cotton acres, and adopting improved agronomic practices – to make India the world’s second largest cotton producer and exporter.

Since hybrid Bt cotton seeds were introduced in India in 2002, Maharashtra farmers almost tripled cotton production to 79 lakh bales in 2013 from 26 lakh bales in 2002; and the average cotton yields increased by 66.81 percent this decade to average 298.6 kg/ha (2003-13) from 179 kg/ha (1993-2001). As a result, the nation’s cotton production doubled to 334 lakh bales in 2012-13 from 136 lakh bales in 2002-03, and our cotton exports now stand at 128.8 lakh bales (2011-12), from being a large cotton importing nation till 2001.

According to a study titled, “Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of Bt cotton in Indiaconducted by Council for Social Development (CSD), farmers continue to save approximately Rs. 2,250 per acre from reduced insecticide spraying for bollworms which were responsible for maximum production loss, due to the continued planting of hybrid Bt cotton seeds. Thus, farmers’ earn approximately Rs. 5,000 per acre as average incremental income from combined insecticide saving and yield increase.

Seed Technologies for Cotton Farmers

Research found farmers seek choices of solutions for weed management, towards optimizing yield and income. If accessible, India’s cotton farmers could benefit from hybrid cotton seeds with Bollgard II® Roundup Ready Flex® in-the-seed cotton technologies’ dual benefits of superior insect protection from bollworms and spodoptera caterpillar, as well as more convenient, flexible and effective weed management through herbicide tolerance, enabling farmers to optimize cotton yield and income.

In cotton seeds with Bollgard II® Roundup Ready Flex® cotton technologies, the superior insect protection of Bollgard II proteins combined with in-the-seed herbicide tolerance of Roundup Ready Flex® proteins in the cotton plant, enable farmers to manage weeds conveniently, flexibly, effectively by spraying a specially formulated Roundup® herbicide over the top of cotton plants flexibly anytime through the season from crop emergence to harvest. The cotton plants will remain healthy and unwanted weeds effectively removed.

Farmers choosing cotton seeds with Bollgard II® Roundup Ready Flex® cotton technologies could optimize their cost of cultivation, time spent on crop management, and benefit from conservation tillage, i.e. minimal soil disturbance which allows crop residue to remain on the ground helping prevent soil erosion by water and air, conserves valuable top soil and leads to better soil aeration and improved soil fertility.  

Indian farmers’ choice to plant hybrid cotton seeds with insect-protection Bt cotton technologies on over 90 per cent of cotton acres, and increased cotton production, is testament to the value created by better seeds, technologies and farming practices, when compared with the alternative of non-Bt seed with insecticide sprays. 

Centre of Excellence in Mehekar

 

Through the Centre of Excellence (COE) in Mehekar in the Buldhana district, Monsanto is attempting to showcase:

1.       The yield benefits of Bollgard cotton hybrids over varieties and conventional cotton hybrids

2.       Best suited Bollgard II cotton hybrids for fields in Maharashtra

3.       Evaluate the impact of Built in Refuge (BIR)  Bollgard II cotton hybrids

4.       Determining impact of different weed control practices in Bollgard II cotton hybrids.

 

Technology Infusion increases Cotton Farmers Choices

Farmers will have multiple choices, i.e. within cotton, farmers could choose from cotton hybrid seeds with Bollgard II insect protection Bt cotton technology, cotton hybrid seeds with other single protein insect protection Bt cotton technologies, cotton hybrid seeds with Bollgard II RRF insect protection and weed management cotton technologies, and non-Bt cotton seeds; in addition to seeds of other crops.

In a season, if farmers choose to plant a combination of cotton hybrid seeds with Bollgard II® Roundup Ready Flex® in-the-seed insect protection and weed management technologies, and/or cotton hybrid seeds with Bollgard II insect protection Bt cotton technology, non-Bt cotton and/or seeds of other crops – farmers will need to sow seeds of any of the latter three in separate rows and/or adjoining plots, which will ensure both crops are independently healthy and productive.

Enabling Cotton Farmers to Sustain India’s Self-Sufficiency & Global Export Competitiveness

India’s cotton revolution is one of innovation and partnerships - between 63 lakh cotton farmers, seed and technology companies, Governments at the Centre and in nine States, agriculture universities, scientists, rural trade, some rural development NGOs, and the user industry (ginners, textile, exporters) - all of which enabled our nation to claim the world’s #2 producer and exporter spot.

In Maharashtra, cotton is one of the most important commercially cultivated crops. It plays a major role in sustaining the livelihood of lakhs of cotton farmers and people engaged in related activities such as cotton ginning, processing etc. For farmers to maximize the yield potential of crops means protecting each plant from insect, weed and environmental stresses, and helping it make the most of water, sun and nutrients.

Farmers created a cotton revolution in the past decade by doubling production using better hybrid cotton seeds with in-the-seed insect-protection Bt cotton technologies on 90 per cent of India’s cotton acres, and adopting improved agronomic practices – to make our nation the world’s second largest cotton producer and exporter.

According to the study titled, “Adoption and Uptake Pathways of Bt Cotton in India”, on an average 85 per cent of farmers and landless labourers invested in better quality education for their children, 77 per cent reported better intake of high value and nutritious food, 70 per cent spent more on recreation and social functions, 75 per cent on health of their family members and 64 per cent on health of livestock.

According to The International Cotton Advisory Council, over the last decade, Indian farmers have experienced the greatest benefit from Bt cotton technologies as compared to their peers anywhere in the world. The increased cotton production has had a positive cascading impact on the ginning, cotton seed crushing and textile industry, exporters, and the domestic seed industry.

With technology infusion via innovative seed-based technologies, farmers could benefit from dual benefits of superior insect protection from bollworms and spodoptera caterpillar, as well as more convenient, flexible and effective weed management through herbicide tolerance, enabling farmers to optimize cotton yields and income, as well as sustain India's global preeminence as a self-sufficient global contributor in cotton.