Gateway to Sustainable Cotton Production — Experiments and Experience with Bt Cotton

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  • V. KUMAR Main Cotton Research Station, NAU, Surat-395007
  • H. R. DESAI Main Cotton Research Station, NAU, Surat-395007
  • C. K. PATEL SDAU, SK Nagar-385506


transgenic Bt cotton, seed cotton yield, GHG, EIQ, WUE, NUE, economic, environmental, social impact


Successful commercialization of hybrid cotton in early seventies and three decades later, the release of first transgenic Bt cotton in the beginning of current century made history in the annals of Indian agriculture. These two events pertaining to cotton plays vital role in Indian economy. In the last fifteen years of Bt cotton, India has witnessed dramatic advances in cotton scenario, be it the farmers, the civil society, the traders, seed and pesticide industry and the regulatory bodies. The country has marched ahead with a sustainable cotton production wherein interests of all stake holders remained intact and alive. Cotton area in India which was 7.66 M ha in 2002 crossed 12.66 M ha in 2014 after introduction of Bt cotton, unseating many food crops. The production never touched 16 M bales (170 kg lint each) prior to Bt cotton, reached 40 M in 2014-15. The productivity which hardly touched 300 kg/ha, exceeded 550 kg/ha in 2007-08 and 2013-14. India which was a net importer of raw cotton until 2002, emerged as major cotton exporter in this period. In fact, it exported as many as 12.96 M bales in 2013-14. On the economic dimension of the three recognised pillars of sustainability, farmers’ experience with Bt cotton has been good to very good with fewer aberrations. Tremendous increase in cotton area is the biggest testimony that the technology clicked very well without additional support from government extension agencies which is normally required to carry any technology forward. Farmers with small, medium and large holdings adapted Bt cotton to reap more yield and higher returns. At the same time, farmers encountered certain problems like multiplicity of varieties, availability of labourers at harvest time, prevalence of Jassids (Amrasca bigutula bigutula) and resistance to insecticides therein, increased incidence of para-wilt/sudden wilt, leaf reddening, emergence of pink boll worm (Pectinophora gossypiella) in central India, spurious seeds and compliance of refugia. Farmers perception of more water and more fertilizers by Bt cottons and a poor succeeding crop are wrongly placed and not limited to Bt cotton alone and had been experienced in pre-Bt era with HY V and HYB. Despite these issues, the Bt cottons occupied nearly 97 per cent cotton area in India. On the environmental dimension, Bt cotton exhibited efficient use of inputs like water and fertilizers helping conserve resources, reduced green house gas (GHG) emission and a low environment impact quotient (EIQ) field ratings. Depletion of soil nutrients in Bt cotton fields is primarily due to greater uptake and higher production which needs to be replenished. In terms of social dimension, the implications of Bt cotton on human health and nutrition are not fully known/studied and nothing adverse is established. On the contrary, farm families enjoy better social status due to higher income. The impact of transgenic cotton on biodiversity are complex and have been a subject of debate and discussion, therefore need further research and careful consideration. Bt cotton in India evoked a new discussion in the civil society about propriety of Bt cotton and other biotech products but one has to accept the fact the technology benefited the farmers and the country. There might be lacunae in the technology and/or its adaption but we have to weigh the loss and gains of technology on sustainability criteria. No technology/product is risk free, especially, if it is over/ injudiciously exploited.


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How to Cite

Gateway to Sustainable Cotton Production — Experiments and Experience with Bt Cotton. (2021). Cotton Research Journal, 8(2).