Rains, HTBT, pink bollworm drag cotton yields by 20-25%

Untimely rains, poor quality hybrid seeds used in HTBT (herbicide tolerant biotechnology) cotton seeds and incidence of pink bollworm in some areas have resulted in a severe drop in yields in the just concluded kharif season.

Despite a huge demand for the fibre crop in the domestic and international markets, thousands of farmers are not able to cash in on a high price situation in several mandis.

Industry experts peg the drop in yields and production by up to 20-25 per cent.

“The heavy rain caused by Cyclone Gulab in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have damaged the standing crop of cotton at many places. Excess rainfall in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Telangana could affect yield of cotton, which is in the flowering stage,” a Market Intelligence report by the Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU) has said.

M Prabhakara Rao, President of the National Seed Association of India, has said that late rains due to La Nina and pink bollworm incidence are the major reasons for poor yields and production in cotton this year.

“Use of poor quality seeds supplied in the name of 4G (fourth generation Bt seeds) in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra is also an important reason for the drop in yields.

Ram Kaundinya, of Federation of Seed Industry of India and Alliance for Agri Innovation, concurs.

“Cotton yields in the Kharif season are lower by about 20 per cent mainly due to unusual heavy rains in the major cotton growing areas of West and South India during September to November 2021,” Ram Kaundinya said.

“Incidence of pink bollworm attack has led to some yield drop. The spread of illegal HT BT namely 3G, 4G too is a reason for the drop in yields,” he said.

HTBT in poor quality seeds

He said the low quality of genetics and physical quality of the seed used in the illegal supplies has affected yields. “This is a serious problem since more than 20 per cent of cotton area in the country. The HTBT area in the South and West is about 30 per cent of the total cotton area there,” he said.

“There is a need for a comprehensive strategy to arrest the spread of illegal HTBT. The Government must come down heavily on the seed production of the unapproved HTBT and its further distribution,” he said.

If it is not stopped, there is a danger that it might penetrate further in the next three years and damage the crop yields before the legally approved seed comes into the market, he felt.

A top executive of a cottonseed company said that the distribution network of HTBT cottonseed is able to hoodwink the government agencies. “They are camouflaging the illegal seed by packaging the material in such a way that it looks like packets of approved brands,” he said, wishing to be anonymous.

In some areas in Telangana, farmers reported yield losses up to 50 per cent. Yields fell to 4-5 quintals an acre from about 10-12 quintals that they reaped in a good year.