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Is Bt cotton losing quality?

S. Harpal Singh
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Inconsistent quality parameters worry processing industries

Assessing quality:A farmer checking cotton for its colour in his field in Jainad mandal on Tuesday.-PHOTO: BY ARRANGEMENT
Assessing quality:A farmer checking cotton for its colour in his field in Jainad mandal on Tuesday.-PHOTO: BY ARRANGEMENT

Is Bt cotton gradually losing on grade or quality or is it just susceptible to the ill-effects of mono cropping and vagaries of weather like any other crop?

The question is haunting the cotton processing industries in Adilabad as they have noticed changes in certain aspects related to its grade over the last few years.

However, they did not deny the possibility of climatic variation in the successive years affecting the quality of the produce.

The cotton produced in the black cotton soils of the district, including the non Bt varieties, was once reputed for its strong and robust fibre, besides the staple length of a minimum 33 mm. The oil content in cotton seed also used to be around 20 per cent, among the highest in the country.

However, the processing industries are now worried over the deterioration of the quality.

Quality measures

“We have observed a slow deterioration in characters of Bt cotton. Its micronaire value is constantly on the decline,” says Pradeep Kotgirwar, a cotton trader, hinting towards the possible inherent weakness of the Bt variety.

“The average staple length of cotton was 28 mm to 29 mm last year, though this year it is 30 mm. The micronaire value last year was 3.1 while it has improved to 4 this year,” reveals S. Swamy of a private cotton testing laboratory in Adilabad.

“The strength of the fibre is 23 grams per tex but the colour grade of cotton leaves much scope at 31 CG against the ideal of 21 CG,” he adds.

"These changes could also occur because of the adverse climatic conditions,” opines Principal Scientist B. Satish Chandra of the Agriculture Research Station, Adilabad.

“We are also experiencing stunted growth of cotton plants and a delay in bursting of bolls owing to the excessive rainfall and reddish wilt owing to cold,” he says.

“We are now extracting only 9.5 per cent oil from cotton seed instead of the standard 13 per cent. The soap stock by product has also doubled from the standard 10 per cent to 20 per cent,” discloses Gopal Tulsyan, owner of a cotton seed crushing unit. However, he supports the contention of Bt cotton being prone to change in nature, which has commercial repercussions.


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