The Times of India, 28 September 2014
AURANGABAD: Cotton farmers in Marathwada should explore options beyond Bt cotton seeds as the costs of cultivating the genetically modified variety were higher, but with no added productivity, profitability or sustainability, said agriculture department officials and other experts.
“Bt cotton has been cultivated on a large area in Marathwada. But due to diminishing profit margins, farmers should plan to evolve other straight varieties (desi cotton) of seed that would help reduce cultivation costs and increase the profitability and sustainability of the crop,” vice-chancellor of Vasantrao Naik Marathwada Krishi Vidyapeeth (VNMKV) B Venkateswarlu said at a workshop organized under the All India Co-ordinated Cotton Improvement Project in Devgaon village, Paithan taluka. About 60% of the farmers in Paithan taluka have already turned their backs on the Bt cotton seed variety that they had used for years.
“Next year, the farmers can use cotton seeds of the desi variety produced on their farms this season. It is important to increase the availability of seeds of this variety,” Venkateswarlu added.
Director of the Cotton Research Station, Nanded, under the aegis of the VNMKV, Dattaprasad Waskar said, “Ever since farmers took up the cultivation of the Bt cotton seed, input costs in the form of fertilizers and pesticides have gone up manifold and the crop is not longer sustainable – more so in the dry zone of Vidarbha and Marathwada.”
Waskar, while making a demonstration on farmer Deepak Joshi’s farm in Devgaon, said, “Compared to other states, Bt cotton yield continues to be the lowest in Maharashtra, whereas the cost of cultivation has been rising steadily. In fact, the cost of cultivation in the state is the highest in the world. So there is an urgent need to review the performance of Bt cotton.”
Joint director of agriculture, Aurangabad, J J Jadhav said, “In view of Bt cotton failing to live up to its promise of high yields and reduced pesticide use, farmers now appear ready to return to desi seed varieties.
To encourage farmers to adopt alternate methods, a demonstration was conducted that director of Extension Education B B Bhosle, district superintending agricultural officer Panditrao Lonare, scientists, officers of agricultural department and farmers of Jai Jawan Jai Kisan group of Devgaon attended.
“Bt cotton has proved to be a bitter experience for farmers who were not cautioned that the technology is premised on the availability of irrigation facilities almost absent in the region. The drought is now compounding the problem,” said Jadhav.
Cotton specialist at the Cotton Research Station, Nanded, K S Baig said, “Universities are developing more varieties suited to different cotton growing districts. The process is long drawn one and no miracle can be expected soon. But that should not deter researchers from working for the benefit of the farmers who suffer huge losses every year due to failure of the crop which is largely dependent on rains.”
Baig described the desi variety as having similar fibre properties compared to hybrid cotton, but cultivated at a lower cost.
He said the cotton produce from the desi variety of seed could fetch the same price in the market as that from Bt cotton.