India should focus on cutting edge research and development to increase cotton productivity and farmers’ income, the country’s top agricultural scientists and experts said at a national conference on “Pioneering the future of cotton research” in Salem, Tamil Nadu. 

The conference was organised by Rasi Seeds as part of its Golden Jubilee celebrations in collaboration with the Federation of Seed Industry in India (FSII).  About 150 top researchers and scientists working on cotton from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), State Agricultural Universities (SAUs) and experts from across the nation took part. 

One of the key recommendations at the conference was the need to increase cotton productivity in the country from the current 447 kg per hectare. This is despite India topping other nations in acreage (136.1 lakh hectares) and production (342 lakh bales of 170 kg). 

Key factors

Experts and scientists pointed out that factors such as shifting weather patterns, increasing pest and disease challenges and  slow adoption of advanced technologies have hindered the growth in yield, resulting in the productivity plateauing over the past 5-7 years.

“This national conference is aimed at reiterating the significant role and urgent need of cutting-edge R&D in the cotton crop in India, exploring holistic solutions to increase cotton productivity. Specific focus on enabling technological and policy interventions is the need of the hour to ensure India’s cotton sector remains sustainable, profitable and globally competitive,” said  M Ramasami, Chairman of Rasi Seeds, a veteran with over 50 years of experience in the seed sector. 

At the conference, Rasi Seeds signed several Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) with Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), ICAR, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), and Annamalai University. These MoUs aim to advance farmers’ training programmes including cotton advisories through radio broadcasting to bring awareness on various issues such as management of the Pink Bollworm menace and drive research projects on cotton crop improvement.

RS Paroda, Founder-Chairman, Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS), called for partnerships in cotton research, which is pivotal for the sustainable growth of the cotton industry. 

Charting better path 

DK Yadava, ADG (Seeds), ICAR, said: “Considering the distinctive hurdles we encounter, collaboration among all stakeholders is crucial for charting a meaningful path ahead. India’s potential is vast, demanding concerted efforts to tackle the low-productivity challenge.”

YG Prasad, Director, CICR-Nagpur, said: “Public and private partnership is the need of the hour to address the biotic and abiotic factors affecting the cotton crops currently.”  

Ajai Rana, FSII Chairman, said India needs to adopt a science-based and unbiased approach towards innovative technologies in seeds and biotechnology.

Ram Kaundinya, Director-General, FSII, said  continued investment in science and research is the key to overcoming challenges like the ones affecting cotton crop yields currently.

Geetha Lakshmi, VC, TNAU, and RM Kathiresan, VC, Annamalai University, also shared their perspectives on enhancing industry- institute interactions.