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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Ludhiana, September 11, 2013
Taking a big leap in developing and commercialising cotton transgenic hybrids, the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) has entered into a strategic partnership with Gujarat State Seed Corporation (GSSC) by signing a memorandum of understanding during the global agriculture summit of Vibrant Gujarat, 2013, held in Gandhinagar on September 10, 2013.

Briefing the media at PAU, vice-chancellor Dr Baldev Singh Dhillon said that the main aim of entering into a pact with GSSC was introgression (transfer of genetic information from one species to another as a result of hybridisation between them and repeated backcrossing) of BG-II genes-event Mon 15985 to parental lines of PAU cotton hybrids.

Besides, PAU has also signed a material-transfer agreement with Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Jorhat, for development of chickpea transgenic, Dhillon said.  Under the pact, the AAU will supply seeds of two transgenic lines, BS100B and BS100E carrying Cry1Ac gene for evaluation against helicoverpa (pest) resistance and introgression breeding, he added.

On September 16, 2012, when PAU V-C visited Jodhpur in Rajasthan to attend a meeting related to development of pearl millets, he met, UD Singh, managing director, GSSC, and held a discussion with him on collaboration between PAU and GSSC for development and commercialisation of cotton transgenic hybrids.

“PAU will provide seeds for GSSC, whereas GSSC will use its special techniques to develop seeds that the Gujarat government has procured from Monsento-a private player. The results will be out in around three to five years,” the V-C added.

The seeds of muskmelon, bottle gourd, summer squash, pumpkin, brinjal, chili and maize among others were also made available to GSSC to carry out research in this regard.

Tracing the history

The PAU vice-chancellor said that during 1960-61, the area under cotton in Punjab was 4.46 lakh hectare and the production was 7.05 lakh bales with productivity of 269kg lint/hectare. 

With the advent of production and protection technologies, the productivity improved and it touched 607kg lint/hectare, in 1991-92. 

One year after the recommendation of Bt cotton in Punjab, ever highest productivity of 750kg lint/hectare was realised in 2006-07, he said, revealing that the productivity of cotton in Punjab in 2011-12 was 535kg lint/hectare from 5.15 lakh hectare area, and the total production was 16.21 lakh bales. 

At present, more than 90% of the cotton area is under Bt cotton, he said. Pointing out that exorbitant price of Bt cotton hybrid seed was adding to the cost of production, Dhillon observed that the situation will further aggravate with supply of spurious seed in the market.