Agri-biotechnology Briefing Bt cotton

Save-N-Sow Bt Cottonseed Varieties Cheaper Than Monsanto’s in the Works

Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) has developed two cotton plant cells which have been mutated with the cry 1Ac gene. These are Tg2E-13 and TM-2, reports Harish Damodaran in the Indian Express.

These cells have been used to produce entire transgenic plants. Their protein content declines over the growing season, but the overall level is two to three-times higher compared to Monsanto’s MON 531 cell whose US patent expired in 2012 and can now be freely used. The toxic protein in the plants developed at the DU centre is concentrated in leaves, bracts and flower buds, which makes it more effective, says Deepak Pental, who heads the DU team. In the Monsanto version, he says, the protein level drops as the plant matures and sets bolls. It is also high in roots, which serves little purpose as bollworms do not eat underground plant tissue.

The other promising event is whitefly-resistant cotton developed by National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow. It has a gene isolated from an edible fern called Tectaria macrodonita. The gene, Tma12, produces a protein which kills whiteflies, a sap-sucking pest. It was found after screening 38 species of ferns. This website had reported the event in November 2015.

Punjab Agriculture University is crossing Tg2E-13 with three of its own high-yielding American cotton varieties. The transfer of technology happened in April last year. PAU’s research director says it would also sign an MOU with NBRI as well to produce varieties with stacked genes, to make cotton resistant to both American bollworm and whiteflies.

The Central Institute of Cotton Research is also using DU centre’s technology in its own high-yielding varieties. The technology transfer agreement was signed in June 2015. Trials to assess it safety to humans, animals and the animals will take time. K R Kranthi, Director of CICR does not expect cotton varieties with the genes to be available to farmers before 2020.

To read the Indian Express article in full click here.

(Top photo of Deepak Pental at his office in Delhi University South Campus, by Vivian Fernandes, February 2015)

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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?