The area under Bt cotton cultivation in the country has rapidly increased from 29,000 hectares in 2002 — when commercial cultivation of the variety was permitted to — 11.2 million hectares in 2012, according to biotechnology experts.
Participating at an interaction programme organised by the University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore on Monday, Biotechnology and Integrated Pest Management Consultant T.M. Manjunath said Bt cotton now accounts for 94.75 per cent of the country’s entire cotton cultivation. He was interacting with about 150 innovative farmers and Bt experts from public and private sectors on various issues related Bt crops.
Similarly, the number of farmers engaged in cultivation of Bt cotton has increased from about 20,000 in 2002 to 65 lakh in 2012, he said. Referring to the opposition from various quarters to Bt crops and the apprehensions on its impact on health and environment, he said there would not have been a rapid increase in the number of farmers cultivating Bt cotton and its area if the variety was not useful to them. It is cultivated mainly in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Gujarat, he said.
The main difference between Bt cotton and the normal variety, he said, was that the Bt cotton is resistant to fruit borer, which used to account for nearly 60 per cent of crop loss. The farmers used to apply large quantities of insecticides to protect their cotton crop earlier. Now, the Bt cotton has reduced insecticide usage by about 70 per cent, he said, adding that the benefit per hectare could range from Rs. 7,000 to Rs. 30,000 per hectare. The cotton yield had increased in the range of 200 to 150 kg per hectare before 2002 to 400 to 450 kg today.
On the occasion, UAS-B Vice-Chancellor K. Narayana Gowda said such an interaction with Bt experts had been organised following suggestions from farmers’ leaders who wanted to know its pros and cons. UAS-B Research Director M.A. Shankar said the intention of the interaction meet was to help farmers shape their own opinion on the variety of cotton.