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2-Plants: New cotton strain to raise output by 25% in China

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

TITLE:  New cotton strain to raise output by 25%
SOURCE: China Daily  / Xinhuanet, China
DATE:   19 Sep 2005

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New cotton strain to raise output by 25%

BEIJING, Sept. 19 (Xinhuanet) -- A major cotton breeding breakthrough has
made China the first country in the world to commercialize a cotton
strain that can resist bollworms and increase output by 25 per cent.

The milestone advancement was pioneered by scientist Guo Sandui and his
team at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. The breakthrough
won wide acclaim from officials and experts over the weekend.

Building on his success of insect-resistant, genetically-modified cotton,
of which 2.3 million hectares was planted this year, Guo's research team
in 1999 started to work out a molecular breeding system for hybrid cotton.

After years of hard work, Guo, the "father of Chinese Bt transgenetic
cotton," was able to have his "Yinmian 2" cotton strain approved by the
National Crop Cultivar Assessment Committee, which gave the go-ahead for
its commercialization, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The "three-line hybrid cotton with insect-resistant gene," if planted on
the 3.33 million hectares of land where it is fit to grow, will
theoretically increase output by 1 million tons each year.

That amounts to what conventional strains may be able to yield on 666,600
hectares, which is the equivalent size of all the cotton fields in the
Yangtze River Delta, a leading cotton producer in China, Vice-Minister of
Agriculture Fan Xiaojian said on Saturday.

With this remark, Fan was apparently pointing to the technology's
potential power to ease the country's land allocation conflict between
grain and cotton crops.

The "three lines" refer to the male-sterile, maintenance and restorer
lines in cotton breeding.

Through genetic engineering and conventional breeding, Chinese scientists
have manipulated these lines to ensure a hybrid cotton strain that
maintains and multiples hybrid heterosis, leading to high quality and
high yields, said Zhang Rui, one of Guo's aides.

In addition, the strain's insect resistance efficiency is more than 90
per cent, Zhang said.

Guo's "Yinmian 2" and other strains in the pipeline will enable China to
use less acreage to reach its cotton production goals, leaving more
cropland for grain production, Fan said.

Fan and a group of government officials and experts inspected Guo's
experimental base in Beijing's Pinggu District on Saturday.

The United States began "three-line hybrid cotton" research in 1948, but
has failed to find a solution to ensure a desirably high yield of hybrid
cotton, let alone a hybrid one with pest-resistance.

Other major cotton growers, such as India, develop hybrid cotton through
a laborious inefficient manual breeding method, according to Guo.

Yuan Longping, the world's "father of hybrid rice," said on Saturday he
had visited both the US and India to see their hybrid cotton breeding in
the 1980s and 1990s.

"I believe China's 'three-line hybrid cotton with insect-resistant gene'
is really a world-leading breakthrough," Yuan told China Daily. "Even in
its initial stage, it can boost cotton production by 25 per cent. This is
a great feat."

Compared with his "hybrid rice" which promises to increase grain output
by up to 20 per cent, Yuan said Guo's hybrid cotton is well on course to
increase output by 30 per cent in the years to come.

The senior scientist urged the ministries of agriculture, science and
technology as well as the National Development and Reform Commission to
shore up investment and spread the technology nationwide to benefit farmers.

On the potential environmental side-effects of genetically engineered
crops, Luo Bin, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture, said only
genetically modified strains assessed as safe are granted certificates
for commercialization.

However, monitoring should continue after a new crop is certified and
spread to large areas of land, he said.

Vice-Minister Fan said his ministry will work to translate the
"encouraging technology" into productivity as soon as possible.

He noted domestic demand for cotton has been on the rise in recent years,
while imports keep flooding in.

Last year, market demand for cotton grew by 1.5 million tons, hitting
8.75 million tons. Imports surged to a record 1.98 million tons, he said.


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