Agri-biotechnology Agriculture Policy

HTBt Not Needed For Cotton Fields To Be Sprayed With Weedicide, Says Excel Crop Care Executive

While farmers of Maharashtra and Haryana are planting HTBt cotton tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate and resistant to bollworms in defiance of the law to compel the government to approve it, an executive at one of the largest sellers of glyphosate in the country says the herbicide can be sprayed even in non-HTBt cotton fields.

Anil Kakkar, Vice President – Marketing at Excel Crop Care says unlike in the US where cotton fields are vast and the herbicide is sprayed aerially or with machines, Indian cotton fields are small and spaying is done manually.  Glyphosate can be sprayed in between rows to control weeds by training the nozzle close to the ground or by using a protecting hood to prevent drift from settling on cotton plants, Kakkar says. Excel Crop Care sells glyphosate under the brand name, Glycel.

Glyphosate kills weeds by blocking photosynthesis. Since it is non-selective it can damage non-target plants too. Glyphosate can be made selective by genetically engineering plants (like cotton, maize or soybean) to block its action. Kakkar says this is desirable in the US, Australia, Brazil and Argentina where spraying on vast tracts of crops cannot be done manually.

This is not the case in India. Hence HTBt cotton is not a necessity, according to him. Even now farmers use glyphosate in non-HTBt cotton fields by carefully avoiding cotton plants.

The catch is that glyphosate does not have a label claim for cotton. It is legally permitted for use only in tea plantations and on non-cropped areas.  But even government institutes wink at the law. A December 2013 newsletter of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur, reports of an indigenous technique for application of glyphosate which was developed at its regional research station in Coimbatore. It says tall aluminum tumblers which are available on rent were used to cover cotton seedlings, and glyphosate was sprayed in the field. This was tested by a few farmers of Namakkal district with good results.

The CICR’s July-August 2012 advisory for Punjab says weeds can be controlled with glyphosate by using a protective hood to prevent drift settling on the cotton plants.

And in CICR’s August 2015 newsletter, its previous director Keshav Kranti writes that glyphosate was not used in India till 1996. In 1998, he says one million litres was sprayed. By 2010, the usage had increased to almost 10 million litres. According to him, glyphosate was used 30 percent on tea, 14 percent on cotton, 13 percent on sugarcane, 10 percent on paddy and 33 percent on vegetables and fruit orchards.

Kakkar says if the government wishes, CICR can be asked to provide data to the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee so that glyphosate can be permitted for use in cotton fields.

(Top photo: Farmers of Rohankhed in Amravati district, Dhanraj Gote (R) and Akash Bilkar (L)  announcing their protest planting on unapproved HTBt cottonseed in July 2019. Photo sent by the farmers). 

Leave a Comment

Hit Counter provided by technology news
Web Design MymensinghPremium WordPress ThemesWeb Development

I Do Not Understand Bt Cotton technology; I Know It Works

Y Kallanagouda Patil, 46, of Uppinbetegeri village in Dharwad taluk  owns 52 acres jointly with his three brothers. He holds a diploma in agriculture from a school in Raichur. Patil grows cotton on ten acres, apart from sugarcane, potato, Bengal gram, jowar, tur,moong and vegetables. He uses groundwater to irrigate his fields. The water is drawn from a depth of 280 feet. Electricity is free so he flood irrigates the fields, except the one under banana  where he uses drip irrigation. He does not micro-irrigate cotton because it is closely planted and has to make way for another crop after eight months. This farmer has his cost all worked out. Making quick mental calculations, he estimates the cost of cotton crop at Rs 22,500 an acre and the realization from 17 quintals an acre at Rs 68,000. He had planted Bayer seed. ‘I do not understand technology, he says, all I know is if I use Bt seed there will be no

Pests Snack on Chilly But Not Cotton

F Basavaraj Rudagi, 48, did not grow cotton before 2008. This farmer from Saundhi village in Dharwad district’s Kundogol taluk made a partial switch to Bt cotton as chilly was susceptible to pest attack and yield was declining. From five acres in 2009, Rudagi had fifteen of a forty acre joint farm under cotton this year, when smartindianagriculture  caught up with him in February. He tried out Bayer in a change from Mahyco and Raasi seed. Rudagi says he got 11.5 quintals (100 kg) an acre from his rain-fed crop and at Rs 4,050 a quintal, his realization was a little over Rs 46,000. The cost, he says, is Rs 26,000 an acre, excluding rental earnings had he leased out the land. This does not mesh with the profit he claims he makes, but then he admits to not keeping crop-wise accounts. Rudagi also grows peanuts, coriander, gram, safflower and jowar. There is safety in diversity. And yes he plants pigeon pea or tur around the cotton crop for bollworms to feed on so they are not forced by the survival instinct to develop resistance to Bt protein.  In this sense he is quite a cut apart. Low cotton prices are worrying but what is the alternative?