Yields from non-Bt hybrid varieties are comparable, with a saving of nearly 50% in input costs
EXCERPT: Malla Reddy [vice-president of All India Kisan Sabha] said Bt cotton is becoming prone to new pests, forcing farmers to spend more on pesticides. This has led farmers' associations to urge state governments and agricultural universities to help farmers with adequate quantities of non-Bt hybrid cotton varieties, he said.
Swelling input costs push Telangana and AP cotton farmers to traditional hybrid varieties
By Raji Reddy Kesireddy
Economic Times (India), 29 Oct 2015
Cotton farmers now have an option of switching to non-BT or traditional hybrid varieties that have given comparable yields in trials at nearly half the input costs.
The trials are being conducted by farmers' bodies in the key cotton growing states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh over hundreds of acres amid growing discontent among farmers owing to swelling input costs and less than remunerative selling prices.
"The trials are currently going on at a limited scale but will be strengthened going forward to ensure adequate availability of quality non-BT hybrid cotton seeds to farmers," said D Raji Reddy, research director at Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University.
Experiments with non-BT hybrid cotton varieties have yielded favourable results in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh and Warangal, Khammam and Adilabad districts of Telangana, said Sarampally Malla Reddy, vice-president of All India Kisan Sabha, which is coordinating the trials with the help of state-owned research bodies.
Malla Reddy said BT cotton is becoming prone to new pests, forcing farmers to spend more on pesticides. This has led farmers' associations to urge state governments and agricultural universities to help farmers with adequate quantities of non-BT hybrid cotton varieties, he said.
"Since yields from non-BT hybrid cotton varieties are looking comparable with a saving of nearly 50% in input costs, we hope farmers will increasingly look at the traditional hybrid varieties," he said.
Estimated at about Rs 13,000 crore, the Indian hybrid seed industry is growing at 10-15% a year, with BT cotton accounting for nearly 45% of the market. The country saw a record growth in cotton crop acreage last year at about 13 million hectares, up from 11.5 million hectares in the previous year. Hybrid seed firms sold 5.3 crore packets of BT cotton seeds in 2014, up from 4.8 crore packets in the previous year.
A significant shift towards non-BT hybrid cotton may take a few years, said hybrid seed industry veteran and advisor SVR Rao, citing unavailability of such hybrid seeds.