In Punjab, there may be reports of farmers discontented with Bt cotton because of pest attack but a recent study shows them profiting most in the country.
The abundance of irrigation water in Punjab has helped it go past Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh that started the race earlier, shows the Indian Society for Cotton Improvement survey funded by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
In 2004, Punjab became the last state to introduce Bt cotton. After many initial controversies and doubts, it's a surprise how it made quick inroads into the hearts of the state's farmers. "The Punjab results are encouraging for the future of the hybrid and genetically modified (GM) crops in the country," ICAR deputy director general of crop science Swapan Kumar Datta said at the presentation.
Punjab is way ahead of even the national average of net income per hectare. Why? Punjab farmers are smart enough to check the cost of inputs such as labour until the harvest, suggests the study that Datta presented during an international conference organised by seed company Syngenta from November 25 to 28.
"The study in the three states (Punjab, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh) identified the role of policy and research and development in promoting innovation in agriculture," said Datta in the presentation, adding: "The three states have different atmosphere for cotton but the results in Punjab especially are encouraging for the future of the hybrid and genetically modified (GM) crops in India, in spite of questions over the introduction."
On December 15, scientists will present the study before the ICAR. In Punjab, all farmers from the sample-size of 1,000 from Muktsar, Bathinda and Mansa districts said the reasons behind their profits were high yield, reduced spray of pesticides, and less susceptibility to bollworm attack.
Because of high earnings in Bt cotton, more young farmers (aged 21 to 40) in Punjab were encouraged to grow the variety. "There no doubt about its success in Punjab but since there are reports of pest attack, the government should wait before introducing more such crops," opined Punjabi University (Patiala) farm economist Kesar Singh Bhangu.
Andhra Pradesh 39,786
National average 41, 837
Andhra Pradesh 35,214
National average 35,725
*All figures in rupees per hectare