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2-Plants: Mixed response to Bt Cotton in Gulbarga Dt. (India)

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TITLE:  Mixed response to Bt Cotton in Gulbarga Dt.
SOURCE: The Hindu, India, by T.V. Sivanandan
DATE:   Feb 2, 3002

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Mixed response to Bt Cotton in Gulbarga Dt.

GULBARGA FEB. 1. The area under the controversial genetically engineered
Bt Cotton cultivation this year is much less than the target, and it has
evoked a mixed response from farmers, at least in Gulbarga District.

Monsanto, which is marketing Bt Cotton seeds through Mahyco-Monsanto, is
yet to make an impact on the State with its product, which is genetically
engineered to prevent the bollworm attack on cotton.

Though the State Government permitted Mahyco-Monsanto to release 20,000
packets of Bt Cotton seeds on a trial basis in the market, the company
reduced the area of cultivation to 16,000 acres even before sowing
commenced due to the shortage of seeds. However, inquiries with the
officials of Mahyco-Monsanto here revealed that only 5,301 packets were
released in 12 districts for commercial sale and on a trial basis in four
districts this year.

While the officials claimed that they had released Bt Cotton seeds for
commercial use, the Government maintained that the company had been
permitted to conduct field trials only in some places.

Though Mahyco-Monsanto initially claimed that the bollworm menace could
be eradicated with the introduction of Bt Cotton, the officials admitted
that the farmers would have to take up spraying if the presence of
bollworm in the crop was more than the economic threshold level (ETL).
The presence of one bollworm per plant is considered as ETL.

According to Mahyco-Monsanto, the variety, which had been released now,
could only control American bollworm, pink bollworm, and spotted bollworm
found in the country, and not the spodactra bollworm, which was not found

A visit to some of the cotton fields in Gulbarga District where the
company has sold 386 packets of Bt Cotton seeds revealed that the impact
of bollworm on the crop could not be judged this year because the
presence of the pest was very low not only in cotton but also in crops
such as red gram and Bengal gram.

Rajendra Kulkarni, a progressive farmer, who has taken up Bt Cotton
cultivation on his one acre plot on the outskirts of Jewargi in the
district, said the expected yield of Bt Cotton was around 10 quintals an
acre, which was much lower than the company's claim of 15 to 20 quintals.

Vijayakumar, Sales Officer of Mahyco-Monsanto, said the yield was low
because seeds were sown late, and due to the sap-sucking pests.

Mr. Kulkarni said that he did not find much difference between Bt Cotton
and other varieties as far as the yield was concerned. He sprayed
pesticides after noticing bollworms in the plants as usual.

However, Piddappa Nandikur, who has cultivated Bt cotton on his five-acre
plot at Shahapur, said the yield this year would be 15 quintals per acre.

He too sprayed pesticides four times after noticing pests in the initial
stage. The advantages of Bt Cotton would be known only when there were
pest attacks on other crops, he added.

Mr. Vijaykumar said while releasing seeds, the company had stated that
there would be pest attacks on Bt Cotton, and had suggested preventive
steps such as spraying pesticides.

The Joint Director of Agriculture, Hanumanthaiah, said the condition of
non-Bt crops was also good this year due to low incidents of pest attack.

The efficacy of Bt Cotton would be known only when the pest attack was
rampant, he added.