It took the university 10 years to develop the variety with resistance against bollworm.(HT File)
It took the university 10 years to develop the variety with resistance against bollworm.(HT File)

PAU ready with Bt cotton variety, goes for trials over 3,000 acres

For current kharif season, the university has started distributing 400gm seed packets of the new variety, PAU Bt1, among farmers free of cost, which can be sown over one kanal.
By Gurpreet Singh Nibber | Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON MAY 02, 2018 09:41 AM IST

A Bt cotton variety developed by the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) is ready for trials. It took the university ten years to develop the variety with resistance against bollworm and it hopes to get better results than the prevailing Bt varieties.

The new genetically modified variety, PAU Bt 1, will go for trials over 3,000 acres in the current kharif season and the university has started distributing seed packets of 400gm each free of cost, asking cotton growers to sow it over one kanal (one-eighth of an acre).

What is Bt cotton

The Bt cotton plants are genetically modified by adding toxins into the gene pool. Bt is a group of proteins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis bacteria. There are more than 200 different types of Bt toxins, each making seeds resistant to different types of pests.

Bt seeds cotton seeds were introduced after massive attack of American bollworm on the desi varieties of cotton in 2005 and 2006. Then, genetically modified cotton seeds of Monsanto were majorly brought in. Later, other companies also launched Bt varieties.

The cost of three kg of seeds of prevailing Bt varieties for one acre is Rs 1,600, which is a major cost factor for farmers.

Cotton is grown over 10 lakh acres in nine districts of state’s Malwa belt, namely Bathinda, Mansa, Fazilka, Abohar, Muktsar, Barnala, Sangrur, Faridkot and Moga.

“I am very positive about our variety and hope it would give best results. Besides, it being resistant to common pest, the farmers don’t have to buy the seeds every season. They could select good plants for producing seeds for the next season. It’s economically beneficial for farmers,” said PAU vice-chancellor BS Dhillon.

The new variety is considered a landmark achievement of the PAU, which has been criticised by the farmers and farm unions for allegedly not undertaking research for newer varieties.

“It’s an achievement for PAU, especially being a public sector body,” said Dhillon. The commonly used varieties in the past were developed by multinational companies.

The PAU Bt1 seed was approved last year for northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan by a committee of department of agriculture and farmers welfare, Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), New Delhi.

“On the basis of research experiments conducted so far in the three states, the average yield of PAU Bt1 is more or at par with most of the Bt cotton varieties commonly grown,” Dhillon said.

The VC, who remained closely associated with the research of the new variety, said it exhibited superior fibre quality with lint percentage of more than 40%. “We are working on more Bt cotton varieties,” he said, while speaking on the future research.

“On the basis of research experiments conducted so far in three states, the average yield of PAU Bt1 is more or at par with most of the Bt cotton varieties commonly grown.”

BS Dhillon, PAU V-C

The PAU Bt1 variety has better tolerance for cotton leaf curl disease as compared to most hybrid varieties cultivated in the region, he added.

Speaking on the yield of the new variety, director, research (cotton), PAU, Paramjit Singh told HT that it has touched 11 quintals per acre whereas the commonly grown varieties in last season gave at least 8 quintals.

“Farmers are enthusiastic about our variety,” he said. Cotton is sown in north India from April 1 to May 15.

Ginning facility

For separation of seed from lint, PAU is creating a ginning facility at its research station in Bathinda where farmers can avail it and get the seed for next year’s sowing.

Advisory for farmers

To produce better quality seed for next year, farmers are being advised not to grow the PAU variety within a distance of 50m from other Bt variety. “The best method for isolation is to grow desi cotton adjoining the Bt variety. Desi cotton seed is available with PAU,” Sandhu said.

He added, “Because honey bees contribute to pollination, the character of our variety could change if the distance caution is not taken into consideration.”

PAU has produced 30 quintals of seeds of the new variety. Of these, they have kept 16 quintals for more in-house trials and 14 quintals is being distributed among the farmers.

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