Agri Business

Cashing-in on weeding woes

Harish Damodaran New Delhi | Updated on March 06, 2011

Crops genetically modified for herbicide tolerance will enable farmers to rely less on manual weeding, while simultaneously boosting sales of glyphosate formulations, including Monsanto's own ‘Roundup'.

According to Dr M. Ramasami, Managing Director of Rasi Seeds Pvt Ltd, a cotton farmer harvesting 10 quintals an acre now spends roughly Rs 20,000, of which Rs 7,000-8,000 is incurred on picking and Rs 5,000-6,000 on weeding.

“Weeding is his second largest expense. Getting labour itself is a problem. Even when available, the going rate is anywhere from Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000 an acre for every round of weeding. And you require 2-3 rounds”, he notes.

Moreover, the weeding operations happen in the first 60-70 days after sowing, when the plant is yet to fully establish itself and the weeds compete with the crop for nutrition and water.

“The demand for weeding labour is concentrated during this period. If it rains continuously and the fields are wet, you will not even get anybody. Weeding costs in Tamil Nadu have more than doubled after the coming in of NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act)”, claims Dr Ramasami.

No wonder, Monsanto India is seeking regulatory approval next for incorporating ‘cp4-espsp' (the gene conferring glyphosate tolerance) in corn. The American life agri-biotech giant is currently conducting BRL-2 trials on two of its corn hybrids – ‘900M Gold' and ‘Hishell' – containing cp4-espsp, stacked along with two Bt genes targeting lepidopteron insect pests.

If all goes well, Monsanto will be in a position to commercialise its Roundup-Ready Bt corn as well in kharif 2012.

Published on March 06, 2011

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