Punjab varsity develops new Bt cotton varieties

3 GM seed options to help farmers cut cultivation costs

March 10, 2017 12:36 am | Updated 03:07 am IST - CHANDIGARH

Punjab Agricultural University Vice-chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon.

Punjab Agricultural University Vice-chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon.


Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana has announced that it has developed the country’s first genetically-modified varieties of cotton — the seeds of which could be reused by farmers with no commercial restrictions, resulting in savings on repeat purchases every season.

“The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has identified three Bt cotton varieties – PAU Bt 1, F1861 and RS2013 – for cultivation in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. They [ICAR] have asked us to put up a proposal on release of these varieties,” PAU Vice-Chancellor Baldev Singh Dhillon told The Hindu .

Dr. Dhillon said the notification on these varieties could be out by next month after ICAR’s scheduled meeting, and the process of multiplying the seeds would, meanwhile, start. “We expect that by next year we will be able to distribute a few seeds to farmers for sowing. In the subsequent year, we will distribute seeds on a large scale,” he said.

Cry1Ac gene at work

“PAU Bt 1 and F1861 were developed by PAU, while RS2013 was developed at Rajasthan Agricultural University (RAU), Bikaner. While the PAU Bt 1 was completely developed at PAU, the F1861 and RS2013 were converted to Bt version by Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur. All three varieties carry the Cry1Ac gene imparting resistance against bollworm complex,” a PAU statement said. The genetic modification involves introduction of the Bt bacterial gene that codes for a protein which kills the bollworm cotton pest.

Dr. Dhillon said, with these varieties, farmers would not have to buy costly Bt cotton seeds every year. “The farmers can keep their own harvest for next year’s sowing,” he said.

Cotton is the only GM crop allowed to be cultivated in India. Punjab alone needs around 20-25 lakh packets of Bt cotton seed which amounts to about ₹225 crore. “The price of these varieties will be much lower than current Bt cotton hybrid seed, and it can cut cultivation costs,” he said.

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