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Wednesday, Aug 11, 2004

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Cotton institute to develop Bt strains

Ch. Prashanth Reddy

The institute is hopeful of releasing varieties that are resistant to American bollworm, spotted bollworm and pink bollworm.

Hyderabad , Aug. 10

THE Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) has embarked upon a project for the development of Bt cotton varieties that would enable farmers to use their own produce for cultivation of the crop for a period of five years.

According to the CICR Director, Dr Phundan Singh, though the research is in a preliminary stage, the institute is hopeful of releasing Bt cotton varieties that are resistant to American bollworm, spotted bollworm and pink bollworm, in the next 5 to 7 years.

Speaking on the sidelines of a national symposium on "Changing World Order - Cotton Research, Development and Policy in Context" here on Tuesday, Dr Singh said the work on the project commenced from January this year, and the initial results were showing positive indications for the development of the Bt cotton varieties.

He said four scientists of the institute have selected two popular cotton varieties - an American variety called LRI 5166 grown in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and a local variety RG 8 grown in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan - for transferring Bt genes Cry 1 A3, Cry 1 A5 and Cry 1F. These Bt genes were identified in India.

Dr Singh said CICR project was aimed at reducing the cost of cultivation and increasing the profitability of farmers. Hence, non-hybrid varieties of Bt cotton were sought to be developed though they yield less than Bt cotton hybrids. With the development of new varieties, the farmers need not replace their seed up to five years.

On the other hand, he said, the cost of a packet of 450 g of Bt cotton hybrid seeds was as much as Rs 1,600. Besides, the farmers have to replace seeds every year.

With regard to coloured cotton, he said there was no demand for such varieties at present. Only two colours, shades of brown and green, were being produced at present. Of the two, green was fading when exposed to sunlight.

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