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2-Plants: Sucking pests endanger Bt cotton crop in Andrhra Pradesh (India)

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Sucking pests endanger Bt cotton crop
SOURCE: The Financial Express, India
DATE:   14 Sep 2005

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Sucking pests endanger Bt cotton crop

HYDERABAD - Even after investing heavily on expensive technologies, Bt
cotton varieties of Mahyco-Monsanto, Rasi seeds and Nuziveedu seeds are
in for a fresh attack by spodoptera or sucking pests.

The incidence of viral disease on Bt cotton crop spreading across Andhra
Pradesh is rather unusual, though it is not a common phenomenon for
cotton crop to have high incidence of sucking pests.

It is learnt that there is a damage of over 30% on the BT cotton plots
and it is yet to be ascertained whether Bt technology is clearly
effective against sucking pests which is a major pest that damages buds
and flowers.

A fact finding team, along with a few government agricultural scientists
and farmers, found that Bt cotton technology is going against its claim
and found higher incidence of spodoptera and helicoverpa insects on some
Bt cotton plots causing considerable damage to buds. Above all, a high
rate of skin diseases has been reported during this season in all Bt
cotton fields in the state.

According to government officials, this unknown cotton disease has caused
losses in about 50,000 acres in Warangal district alone in the state.
According to a Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) report, there is
an adverse development at the flowering and fruiting stage on the crop.

The fact finding team found that in one plot, about 10% of the plants
were completely stunted and seemed to be fully affected, and 20% affected
in the upper canopy with the RCH2Bt variety.

While there is no refuge system on the ground, the farmers seem to be
confused over Bt and non-Bt varieties. On one hand, initially, there are
acceptance problems on Monsanto's varieties, and on the other, it is
learnt that several goats got killed last year. Hence, the farmers
shifted to other varieties and do not think about shepherds who rear
animals like sheep and goats in the cotton fields.

According to CSA officials, Monsanto's MECH 12 Bt variety faced similar
problem like that of Rasi seeds's RCH2BT. Though there were not many
stunted plants, the farmers complained of high incidence of skin
allergies in all Bt cotton plots this year.

The disease has mixed symptoms of boron deficiency as well mite attack
though it is controlled in some plots. Similar was the case with Mallika
variety of Nuziveedu Seeds.

CSA officials point out that the government allows the spread of Bt
cotton, especially of unapproved varieties and has become difficult to
find control plots to check the actual situation. Also, monoculture of BT
cotton may lead to disease-specific to Bt varieties and there is a
vulnerability for greater spread of diseases through sucking pests.


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