How to Improve Yields and Reduce Pesticide Use

How to Improve Yields and Reduce Pesticide Use
Papers Presented at the Technical Seminar at the 63rd Plenary Meeting of the
Mumbai, India
November 2004
T. P. Rajendran, Central Institute for Cotton Research, India
Jesus Rossi (Spain), Gabriel Novick (Argentina), Jack Murray (Australia), Juan Landivar (Brazil), Shigui Zhang
(China, Mainland), Dimitrios Baxevanos (Greece), Ari Mateos (México), Tom Kerby (USA), Kater Hake (USA)
and Dan Krieg (USA), Delta and Pine Land Company
Isa Özkan, Cotton Research Institute, Turkey
Mumtaz Muhammad Khan, cotton grower, Pakistan
T. M. Manjunath, AgriBiotech, India
Kater Hake, Delta and Pine Land Company, USA
Lastus K. Serunjogi, National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Uganda
Jose L. Martinez-Carrillo, National Institute for Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research (INIFAP), Mexico
The 2004 Technical Seminar at the 63rd Plenary Meeting in
Mumbai, India was divided into two parts; a seminar on the
topic, “How to improve yields and reduce pesticide use,” and
a panel discussion on new developments in biotechnology in
cotton. Four papers were presented in the seminar and five researchers from Australia, India, Mexico, Uganda and the USA
participated in the panel discussion. Dr. Gary Fitt of Australia
presented a summary of the report of the Second ICAC Expert
Panel on Biotechnology of Cotton. Eight papers are included
in this publication.
On the topic “How to improve yields and reduce pesticide
use,” Dr. T. P. Rajendran of India emphasized that crop nutrition should be regulated to basic metabolic needs of the plant
instead of luxury consumption of nutrients resulting in excessive growth and higher pest populations. Forewarning farmers
of pest pressure by studying the relationship between weather
and pests, and judicious integration of biotech varieties and
IPM strategies can significantly reduce the use of pesticides.
Mr. Mumtaz M. Khan, a grower from Pakistan, shared his
first hand experience on how to monitor pests, choose chemicals and properly spray so that insecticide use remains low.
Precision land leveling is the most necessary step for achieving high yields and lowering input use. Nitrogen should be applied in moist soil to avoid leaching, and neighboring farmers
should be encouraged to adopt proper pest control measures to
reduce pest control costs for everybody.
Dr. Isa Ozkan of Turkey presented a wide range of cultural,
mechanical, biotechnical and biological options that should
be used before embarking on chemical control. Bt cotton is
one effective way to reduce insecticide, use but this choice is
not yet available to Turkish growers. Growers must employ
integrated pest management approaches that are easier and
cost effective.
Dr. Kater Hake of the USA talked about ultra-narrow row
(UNR) technology as a means of reducing the growing period
and minimizing pesticide use. From a physiological point of
view, crop management for UNR cotton should maximize the
Harvest Index (HI), which is the ratio between the harvested
yield and the total weight of the plant. Ultra-narrow row technology has been tried but new production conditions are now
more favorable for this technology than they were many years
ago. In China (Mainland), UNR is called high density production, and over one million hectares have been planted in
this system for 10 years in the Northwest region. Many other
countries are adopting this system.
Biotechnology is the most discussed subject in cotton production research. The 62nd Plenary Meeting of the ICAC decided
to form the second expert panel on biotechnology of cotton
and report to the 63rd Plenary Meeting in Mumbai, India. The
ICACʼs Second Expert Panel on Biotechnology of Cotton observed that countries should make their own decisions about
adoption of biotech cotton and should not be influenced by
external pressures. The panel recommended that novel gene
characteristics should be introduced through best technologies
and locally adapted varieties. Biotech cotton should form a
component of an integrated farming system supporting integrated pest management. The Expert Panel considers availability of a centralized regulatory process, technically capable
teams to educate farmers, and legislation to protect germplasm
and technology as pre-requisites for successful adoption of
biotech cotton. Dr. Gary Fitt of Australia presented a summary
of the report which was published in the December 2004 issue
of the ICAC RECORDER and is also available in five official
languages of the ICAC at
Dr. T. M. Manjunath of India, Dr. Lastus Serunjogi of Uganda,
Dr. Jose Martinez-Carrillo of Mexico and Dr. Kater Hake of
Delta and Pine Land Company, USA participated in the panel
discussion. Dr. Hake talked about new applications of biotechnology beyond Bt and herbicide resistance. None of the new
products have been commercialized, but work is going on in
various labs around the world on fiber quality improvement.
The paper from Dr. Lastus Serunjogi of Uganda covers the
negative aspect of biotechnology. The paper says that the original fears of risk to health and the environment have been explained in science-based studies. He hoped that other impediments, which translate as fears, will be overcome gradually.
Biotech cotton was planted on 61% of the total area in Mexico in 2004/05. According to Dr. Jose Martinez-Carrillo of
Mexico, Mexican growers have accepted biotech cotton as
an important measure to control the pink bollworm, tobacco
budworm and other bollworms. Adoption of biotech cotton in
Mexico depends upon the pest complex in each area.
According to Dr. Manjunath, biotech cotton was planted on
over half a million hectares, 6% of the total area or 11% of
the hybrid cotton area, in India in 2004/05. India undertook
extensive studies on feed-safety, effects on beneficial and nontarget insects, pollen dispersal and Bt toxin expression in plant
parts before adopting the technology. Area is expected to increase significantly in India.
The topic for the 2005 Technical Seminar is ʻRapid Instrument Testing of Cotton: Opportunities for Breeders and other
Segments of the Industry, and Need for Uniform Definitions.ʼ
The 64th Plenary Meeting of the ICAC will be held in Liverpool, UK from September 25-29, 2005.
New Alternatives to Pesticides
T. P. Rajendran, Central Institute for Cotton Research, India
Pesticides were introduced into agriculture to contain or regulate the destruction of crops by herbivorous pests. These xenobiotics (toxins) have been investigated to ensure increasing
well-being for human life and to enhance agricultural productivity. After the discovery of Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloro-ethane (DDT) in the 1940s, the aspiration to achieve greater security for human life through that discovery was praised to the
extent that in 1942 the Nobel Prize was awarded to Paul Mueller of Germany. The evolution of pesticides from inorganic
contact and stomach toxins such as arsenic, lead, chromium
or mercury salts to organic toxins that generally affect the
insectʼs nervous system through contact and ingestion was in
line with the need for a fool-proof way to protect food production. The development of more target-oriented and site-specific organic compounds that effectively prevented the buildup
of insect density in crops and animals was a major leap toward
the advancement of human life in the past century.
However, the discovery of major adverse effects resulting
from large-scale use of pesticides, particularly in pest-intensive crops such as cotton and paddy, led to a questioning of the
need for blind belief and faith in those practices. Cotton is one
of the major agro-ecological systems that attracted intensive
pesticide use, as shown in table 1.
Table 1. Highly Skewed Pattern of Pesticide Use in India
Area (%)
Pesticide Use (%)
Principles of Herbivory
Understanding the damage done to crops by pests and developing methods to control them is possible only through an
intimate knowledge of herbivory. Crop nutrition may be regulated down to the basic metabolic needs of the plants instead
of allowing a wasteful overconsumption of nutrients. Under
organic conditions of crop production, regulating the nutrient supply available to crop plants can reduce the intensity
of the damage done by herbivorous pests. This, together with
the satisfactory activity in the crop of natural enemies of the
target pests can produce an appreciable reduction in pest density to enable the crop to recover from the damage and thus
compensate for the loss. Farmers need be concerned only with
the satisfactory growth and yield of their crops instead of
worrying about the few insects that may be observed in their
fields. The benefits of these techniques become evident over
the vegetative cycle of the crop. Therefore, the main efforts
should center only on crop production aspects. To reap good
harvests, farmers must rely heavily on the recuperative capabilities demonstrated by the plants. The challenge implicit in
both the type and number of cotton cultivars in India is indicative of the hard struggle farmers have waged to protect their
crops from heavy depredation by genotypes that have dubious
genetic resistance to a few of them at least.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) has been a watchword in
cotton for over four decades, but its meaning varies in several
aspects among those who preach or practice it. Plant protection experts who specialize in pesticide-intensive crops such
as cotton devised more advanced methods and approaches
to protection from predatory insects with the hope of finding
satisfactory methods of pest suppression that might serve as
alternatives to the agro-chemicals that were extensively used.
During the past century, most of the cases of pest depredation
catastrophes in cotton were found to be due to the abuse of
pesticide molecules. The concept of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) began with the use of pesticides against the pests
in the crop and it was only later that it was complemented with
the more recent concepts of pest-monitoring and judicious use
of pesticides at critical buildup points, along with alternate
pest suppression strategies, such as biological and natural suppression of life stages in pests. It has been satisfying to see that
many Indian cotton growers across the country understood the
problems arising from the irrational use of pesticides in crops
and were able to adopt pest suppression methods with a low
pesticide-to-cotton load. While the cotton area has remained
stable throughout the country at between 7.5 and 8.5 million
hectares, there has been satisfactory improvement in the average national yield, i.e., 415 kg/ha of lint in 2004/05.
The number of dominant hybrids and varieties of tetraploid
and diploid Gossypii species are limited to a maximum of
around ten (Tables 2 & 3). In a country with 21 agro-ecological zones and a wide variety of climate and soil characteristics, there is a need for a broad genetic base in cultivars.
The All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project of the
Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) is known for
its methodical and systematic work to identify cotton cultivars
that test positively for both seed cotton yield and fiber quality.
In fact, the long-term stability of high-volume cotton production has been due to the painstaking and dedicated efforts of
the All Indian Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project system. It may be categorically stated that the number of hybrids
and varieties (Table 5) notified by the Ministry of Agriculture
of the Government of India, pursuant to the recommendation
of ICAR and under cultivation at any point in time, is small
enough not to cause any wide disparity in lint quality. The
During the current year, the cotton crop in northern and central India suffered severe defoliation
due to Spodoptera exigua. We must have more
in-depth knowledge of the interactive species biHybrids
North Zone
ology of key pests and diseases. Bollworm supCentral Zone
pression is one aspect of the cotton protection
South Zone
panorama. The judicious combination of genetically modified genotypes, along with other IPM
fact is that, independently of the cotton cultivars they grow,
strategies, shall play a key role in the suppression of all bollall farmers sell their seed cotton. This means that there is a
worms, in addition to other major and minor pests.
market for this product and that this market is driven by the
system that supplies the countryʼs industrial raw material re- Recent efforts by various projects of the National Agricultural
Technology Project of ICAR to develop short-term warning
indicators of pest buildup in cotton utilizing the relationIn the light of this scenario, the state of opinion on pest supship between the weather-based influence on pests and crop
pression in cotton is that there must be a reassessment of the
characteristics have provided promising outcomes in guiding
pest scenarios that are expected to play a role in the biotic
growers and all those involved in managing the pests and disstress on cotton. Cotton hybrids and varieties released through
eases that affect cotton to be prepared to deal with the impendthe public release system are guaranteed to have verifiable
ing pest damage to the crop. IPM strategies targeted with such
resistance to various early-season sap-sucking pests and distools can facilitate supervised management of pest buildup in
eases. Conversely, the hybrids put on the market by the seed
cotton. Preparation by growers who have been forewarned
industry and offered to farmers for higher seed cotton produccan foster the development of communitywide action plans
tion have been seen to be vulnerable to many pests whose
to thwart the brunt of the damage from anomalous population
resistance or tolerance level could increase. The licensing sysexpansion in the crop.
tem for the countryʼs seed industry should ensure that cotton
cultivars marketed by the private R & D system, as well as by Regulation of depredation by herbivorous pests in cotton must
a mushrooming host of seed companies, are resistant to pests be guided by a precise balance of the nutritional quality of
that are known to have sources of resistance. Many of these the plant tissues consumed by those depredators in their quest
companies have now opted for various candidate alien genes for nutrition. The ultimate goal is to harvest the best fiber at
that provide bollworm resistance from parental lines that the lowest possible cost so that growers can earn a reasonable
have been transferred into desirable cotton genotypes through income from their cotton farms (Reentrant and Basu, 1999).
backcrossing. The country currently has four such hybrids un- Cultivars are bred to yield certain desirable fiber properties. In
der cultivation after the necessary approval of these geneti- his quest to reduce the cost of cotton cultivation, Ayyar (1937)
cally modified varieties. How good their overall agronomical insisted that fiber quality improvement must be the concern of
performance will be in the widely varying soil and climate the breeder and that, in the long run, it will prove more profitconditions prevailing in the areas where cotton is grown has able for the grower. Over the last six decades or more, India, along with the rest of the globe, has witnessed a world of
yet to be demonstrated.
change in cultivar preferences, and farmers obviously chose
There have been several reports from across the country
to grow the cotton varieties that fetched the highest market
about the susceptibility of various private hybrids, including
price. The pressure on breeders to develop cultivars led to
genetically modified ones, to early-season pests such as leaf
the development of genotypes of G. hirsutum vulnerable to
hoppers, thrips, lygus bug and mirid bug, in addition to susvarious depredating organisms sequentially or together. The
ceptibility to alternaria leaf spot and grey mildew diseases.
fact that these pest species share niches with humans results
The data must be carefully studied to be able to determine
in a strong challenge posed by these little herbivores whose
how various pests and diseases are able to takeover these Bt
survival instincts and strategies could threaten to thwart all
hybrids that are to be commercially grown in all agro-ecologihuman efforts to increase productivity through the use of xecal zones. The IPM strategy will acquire a more dynamic role
against that backdrop (Mathews and Tunstall, 1994; Amerika
Current principles of pest management have to be suitably alSingh et al., 2002).
tered to protect genetically modified cotton. The high cost of
Table 3. Number of Hybrids of Tetraploids
biotech seed generally makes it necessary to reduce spending
and Diploids from the Private Sector*
on IPM and to economize further by resorting to less costly inZone
terventions. The farmerʼs desire to grow pest-proof crops has
North Zone
to be cost effective, sustainable and environmentally stable.
Central Zone
The net effect of the GM cotton hybrids that are now cultivatSouth Zone
ed on a large scale as part of IPM has not met the expectations
* Source: Seedmen Association, Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), India
Table 2. Number of Hybrids and Varieties of Tetraploids
and Diploids from the Public Sector
application of organic and inorganic sources of
Table 4. Organic Cotton Cultivation Experiments
Seedcotton Yield (kg/ha)
G. hirsutum - LRA 5166 – CICR, Nagpur
Soybean - as crop rotation
* ICPM – integrated cotton production methods (1:1 of inputs that were used
in organic and non-organic plots)
of either growers or planners since many of them were found
to be vulnerable to many other biotic stresses as well as to
the parawilt syndrome. This dreadful malady causes extensive
distress to farmers, who have invested a great deal in seed in
order to maintain a certain cotton plant density and must then
have to watch their plants wilt off before they have a chance
to harvest. The present century shall demand more fine-tuned
measures, based on the susceptibility of cotton cultivars in all
agro-climatic conditions and aimed at ensuring farmers that
cotton agriculture will be cost effective while producing a reasonable quality of lint.
The Deccan plateau comprises a major stretch of rain-fed agricultural lands in India. The states that share this zone are
Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. These
states also share the typical cropping system: low rainfall in
vertisol soil whose specific characteristic is such that it can
sustain only a limited number of crops, one of which is cotton. Conventionally, diploid cottons dominated this landmass.
American (hirsutum) cotton was introduced into this area
during the colonial period and prevailed extensively together with grains like sorghum and pulses such as pigeon pea
and chickpea. High-quality cotton was introduced mainly to
exploit the agro-climate and soil characteristics that support
crops with a longer duration in kharif and shorter winter crops
in rotation or for relay. However, the varieties of these crops in
vogue 30-40 years back were long-duration types with good
compensation capabilities. In the quest for higher yield and
better productivity, there was a special need to find shorter
duration varieties, as well as those that responded to fertilizers
and irrigation, wherever they may have been developed, in the
interest of enhancing the cotton area in this agro-climatic plateau region. The major crops that prevailed in dry lands were
sorghum, bajra and minor millets among cereals; groundnut,
soybean, rapeseed, safflower, linseed and castor amongst oilseeds; pigeon pea (red gram), lentils, Bengalgram, green gram
and black gram among pulses and lentils; and cotton as a major cash crop.
Some basic experiments on the development of sustainable
and cost-effective cotton production were conducted at the
Central Institute for Cotton Research at Nagpur. Results in
the 2nd and 3rd columns (see table 4) showed that there was
stable seedcotton yield, indicating the importance of balanced
A very similar trend was shown by the G. arboreum cultivar, viz., AKA 8401 up to 1996-97.
The level of carbon and phosphorous, as given in
tables 5 and 6, showed that there was an increase
in the buildup of phosphorous over four years. A
decade-long study of the organic carbon status in
farmersʼ fields showed that it rose from 0.35 to
0.90 on average.
Organic and biodynamic farming is an ideal step
towards optimal use of resources and ingredients of the natural
agro-ecosystem. The methodologies employed in this type of
farming were inherent in conventional Indian farming. Thus,
many farmers who had adopted intensive chemical-based agriculture introduced moderation and reduced their farm input
component. Agriculture today is highly commercial in tenor;
consequently, it has to be optimized both in terms of resource
management and cropping plans.
During the early part of last decade, the concept of Sustainable
Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) was introduced
in an FAO conference held in The Netherlands and devoted to
attaining food security, employment and income generation
in villages, as well as natural resource conservation to foster
environmental protection. The intense development and progress of organic farming in our country also coincided with this
resolution, as well as with a similar commitment by the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP, 1994).
Techniques such as crop rotation, mixed cropping, alternate
rows of crops, trap crops, incorporation of crop residues into
the soil, in-situ composting, production of green manure along
with the crop, improving the microbial content of the soil by
first stopping the use of all chemicals and then adding microorganisms such as P.S.B. and various rhizobium bacteria are all
excellent ways of converting dead soil into living soil. ModTable 5. Percentage Organic Carbon Content*
June 1993
* Tarhalkar et al. (1996)
Table 6. Percentage Organic P Content*
June 1993
* Tarhalkar et al. (1996)
ern agriculture, with its accent on intensive farming to exploit
every aspect of farm resources, seed vigor, genetic potential
and season was not able to guarantee farmers a market price
congruent with their investment on enhanced crop production.
The result has been an imbalance in farm-gate economics that
forced several farmers to revert to ad hoc optimization based
on actual situations. Generalized formulas for farming practices were not well suited to all farms in such a large country.
Given the independent thought process of individual farmers
with a background in traditional knowledge, the idea of natural farming flourished. These techniques are based on the optimization of natural principles to operate farms, focusing only
on harvesting what is possible with the available resources
that can be used by the plants. It is also heartening to find
that over the last 20-30 years, many farmers in different parts
of our country have practiced this kind of farming diligently
while using modern crop varieties and hybrids. This indicates
that these genotypes did support the renaissance of rural Indian farming techniques and reformed the economic status
of these farms. The marketing angle implicit in the products
resulting from such farming practices, such as labels claiming the product to be “organic,” “eco-friendly,” “green,” etc.,
might have given a small part of those farmers better profits.
But even those who did not share in those profits did derive
an adequate economic benefit in terms of reduced cultivation
costs and optimized farm returns. Thus the recent farm renaissance based on optimizing the use of local resources over outsourced inputs has given a new impetus to no-frills farming
free of risks and dangers.
Therefore, sustainable plant protection is to be based on the
suppression of herbivore pests with the involvement of crop
plants, as well as by allowing nature to manage the pest population in a judiciously equitable manner. The philosophy of
host selection by insects is to ensure the best nutrition for their
progeny, so that the expected impact on the crop is directly
related to the nutritional quality of the plants. Hence, the best
way to regulate herbivore pest impact is to regulate the supply of nutrients going to the cotton and help save the farmer
and his crop from serious losses. The Helicoverpa population
buildup in the CICR experiment is given in Table 7, as a fouryear average .
The alternatives to pesticides in the judicious management of
damage by pest herbivores become apparent: the nutritional
quality of cotton plants must be regulated to ensure that it covers the plantsʼ metabolic requirements so that they show efficient reproductive activity, produce adequate fruiting forms,
and ultimately, the bolls needed to provide the farmer with
decent seed cotton yields that will sustain his farm and his
livelihood. The price offered in the marketplace in top production years does not encourage farmers to produce more
because when they do, their incomes suffer.
Therefore, the top priority for cotton farmers must be to reduce the cost of planting and to maintain the crop free from
serious upsurges of pest herbivores until harvest time so as to
harvest bolls at the lowest cost of production. This would enable farmers to deal with the global competition that is bound
to emerge as of next year. Industrial users of cotton and national policies will encourage cotton growers to strive to produce cotton at competitive prices, based on fiber quality.
Ayyar, V. Ramanatha. 1937. Some aspects of cotton breeding
work in India. Paper No.3 presented in Plant Breeding of Indian Central Cotton Committeeʼs first conference of Scientific
Workers on cotton in India. March, 1937, p. 328-368.
Mathews, G. A. and J. P. Tunstall. 1994. Insect Pests of Cotton, CAB International, 592 p.
Puri, S. N., K. S. Murthy and O. P. Sharma. 1999. Integrated
Pest Management for Sustainable Cotton Production, p. 246255.
Rajendran, T. P. and A. K. Basu. 1999. Integrated Pest Management in Cotton - Historical Perspective, Present Scenario
and Future Strategies, p. 205-232 (In.)
Singh, Amerika, O. P. Sharma, R. C. Lavekar, O. M. Bambawale, K. S. Murthy and A. Dhandapani. 2002. IPM Technology for rainfed cotton. Technical Bulletin, No.11, National
Centre for Integrated Pest Management, New Delhi, India.
Sundaram, V., A. K. Basu, K. R. Krishna Iyer, S. S. Narayanan
& T. P. Rajendran. Handbook of Cotton in India, 548 p., Indian Society for Cotton Improvement, Mumbai, India.
Table 7. Helicoverpa Infestation (mean of four years)
Peak Incidence
Final Incidence
Tarhalkar, P. P., M. V. Venugopalan, T. P. Rajendran, O. M. Bambawale and M. S. Kairon.
1996. Generation and evaluation of appropriate technology for organic cotton cultivation in
rainfed vertisols. Journal of Indian Society for
Cotton Improvement, 21:111-122.
Ultra Narrow Row Cotton: Global Perspective
Jesus Rossi, (Spain), Gabriel Novick (Argentina), Jack Murray (Australia), Juan Landivar (Brazil),
Shigui Zhang (China, Mainland), Dimitrios Baxevanos (Greece), Ari Mateos (México),
Tom Kerby (USA), Kater Hake (USA) and Dan Krieg (USA),
Delta and Pine Land Company
(Presented by Kater Hake)
What is Ultra Narrow Row Cotton?
Ultra Narrow Row cotton (UNR) defines a cotton production system based on high plant populations and narrow row
spacing (generally between 20 and 40 cm). The theoretical
advantages of this system are an earlier crop cover and higher sunlight interception under plant stress conditions, which
could result in higher and earlier yields at lower cost. UNR
production system might produce equivalent yields in fewer
days than with conventional row spacing, or UNR can produce higher yields in approximately the same number of days.
UNR performs best in high radiation, semi-arid environments
where water and nutrient supply can be properly managed.
Cotton production under narrow spacing is not a new idea.
Research on this topic dates back to the 19th century. In China
(Mainland), various UNR high-density planting systems have
been beneficially employed on over 1 million hectares of cotton for approximately 10 years. However, the new improvements in plastic film mulching, planting, growth regulators,
defoliants, harvesting and ginning equipment, have made the
system commercially viable across a wider range of farming
systems. The recent advances in cotton biotechnology also
help the application of UNR cotton since adequate pest and
weed management is a critical factor to UNR success.
Agronomy and Physiology of Ultra
Narrow Row Cotton
Cotton plants growing under the UNR cotton production
system generally become more upright and columnar, with
a higher percentage of first-position bolls, fewer vegetative
branches and shorter fruiting branches. It is very important
in UNR cotton to get a uniform stand, since skips and/or low
plant density in certain fields produce taller plants with more
vegetative branches which make crop management and harvest more complicated.
Crop management is critical, and growth regulators are usually required to avoid excessive plant size. A management target would be to reduce plant height to a maximum of 70 cm.
Consequently, the total number of nodes can be reduced from
22-26 to 18-20. A good early boll set is also very important;
having more fruit set on the bottom branches is critical to both
earliness and plant height control. UNR cotton requires only a
smaller number of bolls per plant. Therefore, early pest management is crucial. That is why Bt cotton is a useful tool for
this production system. Nitrogen and water should be depleted
in the soil at harvest to avoid late re-growth and potential boll
rot. In some UNR cotton fields, signs of potassium deficiencies can be observed because of higher yields per acre. Soil
nutrient levels should be monitored to see if potassium or zinc
supplies need to be supplemented before planting. Finally,
good defoliation promotes dry cotton at harvest. In the case of
stripper harvesting, desiccants are often used to avoid excess
moisture and barky cotton.
Early crop cover promotes early season sunlight interception
and ground shading to suppress weeds. The adverse yield consequences of skippy stands decreases in UNR cotton as adjacent rows may compensate for skips down a row. Sunlight interception is improved under any circumstances but especially
under stressful conditions such as poor soils structure, saline
soils or drought-prone soils.
New technologies such as herbicide tolerant varieties and new
post-emergence herbicides, are very useful in a URN system.
From a physiological point of view, crop management for
UNR cotton should maximize the Harvest Index (HI), which
is the ratio between the harvested yield and the total weight of
the plant. Research in cotton physiology proves that greater
yield increases result from an improved harvest index than
from greater biomass and photosynthesis. Total carbon fixation and a reduction in per unit ground area are increased by
UNR, but photosynthetic rate per unit leaf area is not necessarily increased. Thus, the Harvest Index is maximized through
early fruiting with high retention, reduced leaf area at cut-out,
a good balance between boll requirements and nitrogen fertilizer, and adequate plant height. Compact and determinate
varieties, usually with a higher HI, are better adapted to URN
system than highly indeterminate or late fruiting cultivars.
However, some studies have not found genotype x system interaction, so in principle, any locally adapted variety might be
grown in with UNR with proper management.
Potential Benefits
• Ultra Narrow Row cotton systems should reduce the cost
of production under certain conditions.
Stripper harvest, including maintenance of the harvester,
is cheaper.
• Yield increases are possible, especially in poor soils and/
or short season areas.
• Crops can be up to three weeks earlier, giving better uti-
lization of harvest equipment, personnel, quick turn around
at busy gins and better farm rotations.
• Early maturity shortens the exposure to harmful insects
and diseases.
• UNR cotton fits well in reduced tillage systems since cultivation is generally not practical in UNR cotton.
Potential Limitations
• Crop management is critical (requires more monitoring)
and the crop must be harvested dry if strippers are used.
• UNR cotton may require improvements in planting and
harvesting equipment.
• In the past, the acceptance of seed cotton by ginners and
lint by textile mills was low because of the higher trash
content in stripper harvested UNR cotton. However, with
the release of the new John Deere PRO-12 spindle picker,
acceptance should not be an issue. Although it is commercially available, the adaptation of this equipment to different growing environments is still under development, but it
is performing quite well where it has been introduced.
Ginning and Textile Performance of
UNR Cotton
The harvest method used in the past for UNR cotton was
broadcast strippers. Seed cotton obtained with this system had
over three times the foreign matter of conventional cotton harvested with spindle pickers, according to studies conducted by
Cotton Incorporated in the U.S. This reduced the gin turnout
from 35 to 30 percent.
However, with proper ginning, the marketing classifications
(including foreign matter content) were not statistically different than conventional cotton. The effect on spinning performance, including ends down, was also not statistically different. The data revealed no differences between harvesting
methods on yarn strength or evenness.
As mentioned before, the availability of new spindle pickers
that are able to operate in 38 cm (15 inch) row spacing makes
UNR cotton quality an issue that has been overcome.
Ultra Narrow Cotton in Different
Growing Areas
Ultra Narrow Row cotton was examined in Argentina in the
early 1960ʼs with good results. Significant yield increases
were reported, both in areas with good yield potential as well
as in rain-fed areas. However, UNR cotton was not used commercially until the introduction of Bt cotton. Now, both Bt
and herbicide tolerant varieties are grown with the UNR system in Argentina. Commercial UNR fields in the rain-fed area
reported an average of 663 kg lint/ha (25 cm row spacing)
versus 480 kg lint/ha with conventional 1 meter spacing, an
increase of 38%; earliness increased up to 38 days, with little
change in grade. Area planted to UNR cotton is increasing in
Argentina. In 2003/04 around 20,000 hectares were planted
at 50 cm row spacings or less, out of a total area in Argentina
of 378,000 hectares. The crop is harvested mostly with finger
stripper harvesters produced in Argentina. The cost to transform a used 4 row spindle picker to a 6 meter finger stripper
is around US$30,000.
Argentina is also looking at the possibility of planting cotton
with 50 cm row spacing, which matches the standard soybean
row width, in order to share planters and other equipment between the crops. The benefits of UNR cotton in Argentina are
increased yields, lower costs (the savings in harvesting operation is especially remarkable) and earliness to escape rainfall
at the end of the season.
Argentina is looking forward to planting stacked gene varieties, combining tolerance to lepidopteran pests and to glyphosate (total herbicide). This technology, together with UNR
cotton and reduced tillage, could be a good alternative for
many areas of the country.
Cotton farmersʼ interest in UNR production started in the mid1990ʼs reaching approximately 5,000 hectares of UNR cotton in 1999/2000, mainly in the southern growing regions. To
date, UNR cotton has been successful in New South Wales.
Growers were looking at ways to grow cotton in cooler valleys while maintaining both yield and quality. The UNR system provides the ability to produce cotton during a shorter
growing season.
Until the release of new spindle pickers, stripping the crop
resulted in big discounts when ginned. Now UNR cotton can
be spindle picked while also maintaining quality.
Some trials have been conducted in New South Wales comparing conventional row spacing (95 cm or 36 inches) with
UNR (38 cm or 15 inches). The UNR cotton reached maturity
three weeks earlier and received one less stage-three insecticide applications. The benefit of reduced insecticide use is less
significant now with the introduction of stacked gene varieties combining Bollgard® II and Roundup Ready®. The 38-cm
cotton required one less irrigation application, although UNR
cotton still used around the same amount of water per hectare
as conventional crops. UNR cotton yielded 340 kg of lint per
hectare more than conventional cotton, with no discounts.
The same report states that the system is likely to fit well in
other areas of Australia. More information is available in the
“Australian Cotton Grower”, Vol 24, Nº 3, page 8 (June-July
Nowadays, Australia is still growing around 5,000 hectares
of UNR cotton (2% of the national acreage) but it is likely
that UNR area will expand with the only limitation being the
number of picking heads available to handle the size of the
In the mid-1990ʼs, some Brazilian cotton growers visited US
universities and saw the advantages of UNR cotton first hand.
Subsequent experiments in Brazil were conducted with 40-50
cm rows, to match soybean row spacing.
The Brazilian areas most interested in the UNR system were
the North East and Central West regions due to their limited
water supply. More recently, research in Mato Grosso has focused on double cropping cotton with early maturing soybean
Trials conducted by MDM (a Brazilian cotton planting seed
company associated with Delta and Pine Land Co. and Maeda
Brazilian Holding) reported yield increases of 10-20% with
UNR cotton, and the cost of production was significantly lower with harvest occurring twenty to thirty days earlier. Row
closure with UNR cotton occurred 30 days earlier resulting in
better light interception and increased water efficiency. The
data from these trials also showed that there are minimal advantages to reducing the row spacing to less than 38 cm.
UNR cotton seems to be a very good fit in Brazil. Yield increases, cost reductions and faster maturity (which allows cotton to escape pests like the boll weevil) and better adaptation
to reduced tillage systems (which is more convenient when
planted after soybeans), are the major advantages of UNR cotton.
China (Mainland)
There are three main cotton growing regions in China (Mainland): the Yellow River region with over 2 millions hectares,
the Yangtze River region with about 2 millions hectares and
the Northwest inland region with over 1.3 million hectares.
The production systems are completely different among the
three cotton growing regions because of different environments.
mulching management techniques, have compensated for the
short growing period to generate high yields. The average lint
yield is about 1,500 kg of lint per hectare in the region, and
the highest yielding fields can reach 3,750 kg. Although many
early maturation management techniques are combined with
UNR, without the use of UNR the cotton plant can not mature before frost occurs in some years. Machines are used for
planting, laying plastic film and cultivating, but hand picking
is still the main harvest method in a region.
The climate and weather conditions in the Yangtze River region are completely different from the Northwest region. The
Yangtze growing season is long enough for the crop to mature
fully, so double crop systems have been used. Over 50 percent
of cotton area is planted to hybrids. The cotton seedlings are
transplanted with an extremely low plant population (30,000
plants per hectare) and wide row space (80 to 120 cm) after
oilseed rape or wheat is harvested. Thus, UNR cotton production has not been used in this region.
The Yellow River region is the largest cotton area in China
(Mainland). Growing conditions and cotton agronomic practices in the Yellow River region are intermediate between the
Northwestʼs and the Yangtzeʼs. 45,000 to 90,000 plants per
hectare are planted in the Yellow River region. Two kinds of
cotton varieties (spring cotton and summer cotton), and diverse production systems have been used. In addition to the
full-season spring-planted cotton, inter-cropping systems of
cotton with wheat, watermelon, potato, onion, mungbean and
garlic etc. are specialties in this region. So cotton rows are
often wide after the early crops are harvested. In some parts of
the Yellow River region, UNR cotton has been used for direct
seeding short-season summer-cotton varieties after a wheat
crop has been harvested. The rainy weather in July and August
limits the use of UNR cotton in this region. The dominant use
of UNR cotton in China is in the Nortwest region.
The Northwest cotton growing region mainly includes Xinjiang, and part of Gansu province. There is plenty of sunshine
(2,700 to 3,300 hours annually); but not enough heat units (the
The Northwest cotton production region is the only region to annual accumulated temperature above 15˚C is only 2,500˚C
employ UNR cotton, also referred to as high density cotton in to 4,900˚C). The frost-free period is only 155 to 230 days.
China. Growers typically plant over 150,000 plants per hect- Annual rainfall is less than 200 mm so all cotton production
are. The growing period in the Northwest region is short with relies on irrigation. Because of this special environment, cotample sunshine and irrigation water. One million hectares ton yields were low and unstable 50 years ago. The lint yield
per year have been grown with this system for approximately was only 150 kilograms per hectare, with a population of
10 years. This UNR system, combined with the plastic film 90,000 plants per hectare. The average cotton yield increased
from 150 kg in 1950 to 300 kg in
Table1. Yield and yield components under different UNR populations.
1980, 900 kg in 1990, 1,500 kg in
2000 and 1,800 kg at 2004. This
Average Boll
Average Boll
Lint percentage
Lint Yield
yield increase is partially due to the
population per
number per
weight in
plant population increase and nar183,000
row rows (90,000 plants per hectare
in 1950 and 1980, 120,000 in 1990,
150,000 in 2000 and 225,000 in
2004) with row spaces getting narrower and narrower down
to 20 centimeters. Other technique have been a part of the
UNR production system, such as early-maturing cotton varieties, plastic film mulching, drip irrigation, and mepiquat
chloride to control the rank growth of the high density cotton
plant canopy.
Trials in Xinjiang (Table 1) show that the best plant population is 242,000 plants per hectare, and suitable densities range
from 225,000 to 270,000 plants per hectare. The high density
production system can make full use of sunshine during the
effective growing period to increase the mainstem boll number on lower fruit branches. As a result, earlier cotton maturity
is assured. There is no significant production cost and irrigation efficiency difference with UNR cotton in Xinjiang.
There are two common UNR cotton planting patterns in Xinjiang. The 4-row pattern uses an average row space of 40
centimeters with 10 centimeters between plants and a plant
population of 250,000 plants per hectare. The plant population at harvest is closer to 225,000, due to some plant loss. 4
rows are planted with one wide plastic film strip. This pattern
is suitable to high fertility fields. A second common UNR pattern employs 6 rows under each plastic film strip. The average row space is 29 centimeters and the space between plants
is 12 centimeters, beginning the plant population to 287,000
plants per hectare. The harvest population is typically 240,000
plants per hectare. This pattern has been widely used in low
soil fertility field.
Other management techniques, besides row and plant spacing,
must also be used in UNR cotton to ensure optimum performance.
• Early-maturity cotton varieties. Select varieties for a shortseason, short plant height, lower node position of first fruiting branch, smaller leaves and shorter internodes.
• Planting date. The planting date is very important to
achieve high yields and reduce the risk of early frost damage. Xinjiangʼs lack of heat and the short growing season
encourages a compromise. Cotton should be planted as early as possible to make full use of the growing period, but at
the same time should avoid the damage of frost after planting. The suitable planting time is 8 to 10 days before the
last frost date. This generally results in seedling emergence
through the plastic mulch after the last frost.
• Plastic film mulching is a must to guarantee success when
planting before the last frost date. Film width is getting
wider so 6 or even 8 rows of cotton can be covered by each
strip. The increased temperature under the film encourages
the germination and seedling growth.
• Mepiquat chloride applications should usually be used in
the UNR system. From the 2-leaf stage, Mepiquat chloride
is commonly applied at a 10-day interval to allow final plant
height of 50 to 60 centimeters.
• Irrigation is also very important for UNR cotton in the
Northwest. Drip irrigation under plastic is recommended for
higher yields. Furrow irrigation should be applied carefully
to avoid. Normally, three furrow irrigations are needed per
season. Starting with a full soil water profile, the first postplant furrow irrigation is typically applied at first bloom,
which occurs early in these short season cotton varieties.
This irrigation amount should not be too large. The interval
between the first and second irrigations should not be longer
than 15 days. The third irrigation should also be light to
avoid late maturity of bolls.
Hand picking is still the dominant harvesting method in Xinjiang, but spindle pickers and strippers have been tested on a
small scale. Data comparing harvest methods in the Northwest is not available. Two year study of fiber measurements
from several hundred lint samples taken from many cotton
varieties from North Xinjiang and South Xinjiang shows that
plant densities between 150,000 and 260,000 plants per hectare have no significant impacts on HVI fiber characteristics
compared with wide-row cotton.
European Union
Despite not yet being commercially applied, UNR cotton is an
exciting technology for European Union growers. Cotton is a
high input crop in both Greece and Spain, with intensive management which results in high yields but also high costs. The
growing season is typically short and constrained by rainfall
at planting and harvest. Currently, D&PL in Europe is working to evaluate the URN system. A research program was initiated in 2004 combining microplot replicated trials (Greece)
and strip trials (Spain).
The data shows a 3-week earlier crop at 38 cm row spacing
compared to 75 cm rows and the conventional spacing of 95
cm rows. Yield results were variable, but UNR cotton always
yielded the same or higher than 75 or 95 cm rows.
UNR cotton is not commercially applied in Mexico, although
research continues to test the benefits of higher plant densities.
United States
Ultra Narrow Row cotton research was facilitated by the introduction of herbicide tolerant technology in 1997. Substantial interest developed in a system that provided for increased
yields in marginal soils. URN technology allowed cotton to be
grown on soils that are otherwise suitable only for soybeans.
Many of URN fields produced superior yields to conventional
cotton, but they were harvested with “finger strippers” with
associated higher levels of trash. Cotton merchants significantly discounted this cotton, and interest decreased.
Delta and Pine Land Company, in cooperation with John
Deere, conducted a 3-year study of row spacing that included
20 or 40 cm rows compared to conventional rows that ranged
from 76 to 102 cm. Yields were equal to or superior in the
UNR system. Maturity averaged two to three weeks earlier
depending on early boll retention and late season nitrogen and
water. In all cases it was determined that 40 cm row spacing
provided all the benefits of UNR and thus a harvest machine
could be designed to accommodate 40 cm row spacing.
Ultra Narrow Row cotton, defined as planting cotton at row
spacings in the range of 30-50 cm, is a system that can deliver
higher yields and earlier maturity at a lower cost. Adaptation
to different environments and farming characteristics justifies
research in many different cotton growing areas.
Due to the quality discounts often received when harvesting
UNR cotton using a broadcast “finger” stripper, grower interest in UNR declined. However, in 2004, many Brazilian
and Australian growers conducted evaluations of the new
UNR spindle picker focusing on agronomic management
and variety performance. Results have been encouraging,
but spindle picked UNR remains in the development phase.
Although planting rates and agronomic management are generally understood, more experience is required to determine
if the advantages of UNR spindle harvested cotton exceeds
the increased harvest costs associated with the new machine.
Some growing regions clearly have more to gain from UNR
cotton than others because of differences in soil type, rainfall
amounts, soil fertility, and length of the growing season. It
will take time to sort out the environments that provide the
greatest economic benefit from spindle picked UNR cotton.
With the improvements in planting and harvesting, and new
technologies such as Bt cotton and herbicide tolerant cotton,
UNR cotton is a promising system that can help cotton sustainability across the world.
Achieving High Yields with Minimum
Pesticide Use in Cotton
Isa Özkan, Cotton Research Institute, Turkey
Pesticides are highly toxic chemicals which are deliberately
released into the environment. They threaten farm workers
and the general population through contamination of drinking water and residues on food crops. Pesticides are generally
classified according to their purposes, such as insecticides,
herbicides, fungicides and rodenticides. These are used mostly in agriculture but also for lawns and landscapes, roadsides,
schools, playgrounds, parks, libraries and offices.
Cotton is a strategically important crop for Turkey. In Turkey,
cotton is planted on 700,000 ha, and 40% of Turkeyʼs exports
come from cotton products.
Pesticides damage human health, including damage to eyes,
skin burns, cancer, nerve damage and immune system and
hormonal system disruptions. Cotton is one of the most important plants on which pesticides are used to control pests.
In Turkey, 33,000 tons of pesticides (active ingredient) were
used in 2003, 47% was insecticide, 24% herbicide, 16% fungicide and 13% other (Anonymous, 2003). Pesticide use on
cotton amounts to approximately 5-6 thousand tons, accounting for 15-18% of total pesticides use. Cotton area in Turkey
equals 3% of total agriculture area. Insecticide use has the biggest share in this sum and amounts to almost 35-40 million
annually. It is important to reduce pesticides use for the sake
of the environment and human health.
Reducing pesticide use in cotton can be accomplished with
techniques similar to practices using transgenic cotton varieties and IPM. IPM techniques are effective for conditions in
Turkey because in the Aegean and South Eastern Anatolia regions, rich predator fauna are available.
Cotton is affected by insects, diseases and weeds, and pesticides are commonly used to control them. Pesticides not only
have negative effects on human health and the environment
but also raise production costs.
In Turkey, 33,000 tons of pesticides were used in 2003, 47%
were insecticides, 24% herbicides, 16% fungicides and 13%
others (Anonymous, 2003). Pesticide use in cotton amounts to
5-6 thousand tons, 15%-18% of total pesticide use in Turkey.
Insecticides alone cost 35-40 million annually.
Due to public awareness about human health, the environment
and conservation of genetic diversity, a reduction in pesticide
use and an emphasis on sustainable agricultural production
have become a necessity. Because of the economic importance of cotton, yields must be maintained in sustainable production system.
Studies have been conducted in Turkey to reduce pesticide use
in cotton since 1994, and various methods have been investigated. Organic cotton production has increased. Since 1995,
IPM research results have been implemented with the purpose
of reducing pesticide applications. Educational and practical
studies are being carried out by farmers in many provinces.
Table 1. Main Cotton Pests, Diseases and Weeds for Different Production Regions
Aegean Region
Mediterranean Region
Cotton jassids (Empoasca
decipiens Paoli.)
Spider mites [Tetranychus
cinnabarinus (Boisd.), T. Urticae
Thrips (Thrips tabaci L.)
Cotton aphid (Aphis gossypii
Verticillium wilt
(Verticillium dahliae Klep.)
Cotton aphid (Aphis
gossypii Glov.)
American bollworm
[Helicoverpa armigera
Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci
Johnson grass (Sorghum
halepense (L.) Pres.)
Hear leaf cocklebur (Xanthium
strumarium L.)
Purple nutsedge (Cyperus
rotundus L.)
Johnson grass
(Sorghum halepense (L.)
Hear leaf cocklebur
(Xanthium strumarium L.)
Purple nutsedge
(Cyperus rotundus L.)
Source: Anonymous, 2000.
Verticillium wilt
(Verticillium dahliae Klep.)
Main Pests, Diseases and Weeds
The pests, diseases and weeds in cotton fields vary. Cotton
aphid Aphis gossypii (Glov.), American bollworm Helicoverpa armigera (Hbn.) and whitefly Bemisia tabaci (Genn.)
are widespread in the Mediterranean region; cotton jassids
Empoasca decipiens (Paoli.), spider mites Tetranychus cinnabarinus (Boisd.), T. Urticae (Koch.), thrips Thrips tabaci
(L.) and cotton aphid Aphis gossypii (Glov.) are in the Aegean
region; thrips Thrips tabaci L., cotton jassids Empoasca decipiens (Paoli.) and cotton aphid Aphis gossypii (Glov.) are
the main pests of cotton in South Eastern Anatolia region. The
most destructive cotton disease in all regions is Verticillium
wilt Verticillium dahliae (Klep.) Johnson grass Sorghum halepense (L.), hear leaf cocklebur Xanthium strumarium (L.)
and purple nutsedge Cyperus rotundus (L.) are the main cotton weeds in all regions (Anonymous, 2000) (Table 1).
Apart from the pests listed above, pink bollworm Pectinophora gossypiella (Saund.), can occasionally cause damage, especially in Çukurova.
Reducing Pesticide Use
The methods of reducing pesticide use in cotton are given below;
• Producing cotton in low pest environment
• Producing transgenic cotton varieties
• Use of IPM
Producing Cotton in a Low Pest Environment
The chemical control method is used against pests in cotton
after an economic injury threshold has been reached. If there
are no pests, there is no need to control pests, and pesticide use
is low. Almost no insecticides are needed in Kahramanmaraş
province, located in the Çukurova region. The cotton production area in Kahramanmaraş is approximately 20,000 hectares.
South Eastern Anatolia
Thrips (Thrips tabaci L.)
Cotton jassids
(Empoasca decipiens
Cotton aphid (Aphis
gossypii Glov.)
This area is a small part of the cotton
area in Turkey. In fact, it is difficult
to find another area of its kind for
cotton production.
Producing Transgenic
Cotton Varieties
Transgenic crops were planted on
53 million hectares in the world in
2002. 19 % of this area was allocatJohnson grass
ed to transgenic cotton (Chaudhry,
(Sorghum halepense (L.)
2002). In 2004, 25-30% of world
Hear leaf cocklebur
cotton production was obtained from
(Xanthium strumarium L.)
Purple nutsedge
transgenic varieties. Although cotton
(Cyperus rotundus L.)
farming is practiced in more than 80
countries in the world, only 9 countries, USA, Argentina, Australia, Colombia, China (Mainland), Indonesia, South Africa, India and
Mexico produce transgenic cotton (Barut, 2003).
Verticillium wilt
(Verticillium dahliae Klep.)
The use of growing Bt cotton in an areas where American bollworm and pink bollworm are problems, can be advantageous,
but Bt is not effective against insects like jassids, thrips, spider
mites and Whitefly. Therefore, if the main pests are other than
Lepidoptera, the use of Bt cotton will not reduce pesticide use.
Whatever effective or not, biotech crop production is not allowed in Turkey.
Use of IPM System
IPM is a multidimensional management system to control
pests. When insects, diseases and weeds exceed an economic
injury level, suitable control measures are implemented. The
aim of IPM is to increase crop production and produce high
quality crops without pesticide residue. This aim is achieved
by pesticides that:
• onserve and support predators, and
• make farmers experts on their own farms,
The main goal of an integrated pest management system is
not to destroy pests completely, but to keep them under an
economic injury level. All pests, including insects, pathogens
and weeds are taken into consideration while deciding on control measures, but decisions are based on the main destructive
pest(s). IPM is composed of cultural, mechanical, biotechnical, Biological and chemicals controls.
Cultural Controls
Cultural methods prevent crop damage from pests by restricting or decreasing their life spans and reproduction level
(Yaşarakıncı et al., 2004). The objective is not complete destruction of all pests, but the prevention of pests from spreading into crops and reproducing.
Providing healthy plant growth, growing plants in a suitable
Mass Traps
Table 2. Predators of Some Main Pests in Turkey
Cotton aphid (Aphis gossypii Glov.)
Coccinella septempunctata L.,
Chrysoperla carnea (Steph.)
Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci Genn.)
Eretmocerus mundus Mercet
Deraeocoris spp.
Thrips (Thrips tabaci L.)
Chrysoperla carnea (Steph.), Scymnus spp.
Spider mites [Tetranychus cinnabarinus (Boisd.), T.
Urticae Koch.]
Stethorus gilvifrons (Muls.)
Scymnus spp.
American bollworm [Helicoverpa armigera (Hbn.)]
Orius sp., Nabis pseudoferus Rm.
Cotton jassids (Empoasca decipiens Paoli.)
Chrysoperla carnea (Steph.)
Deraeocoris spp.
Source: Anonymous, 2000.
environment, timely and adequate soil preparation, fertilization, irrigation and optimum planting density are the main
prerequisites to accomplish cultural controls. Adjusting planting time, harvest time and harvest method, crop rotation and
destruction of plant residue after harvest are the main cultural
Growing healthy and tolerant varieties is an important factor
for disease control. It is difficult to control diseases in clay
soils or extremely humid areas. Removing harvest residue immediately and plowing after harvest will reduce pest populations which otherwise over winter in the soil. Irrigations
should be limited because humidity increases insect populations. Crop rotation is one of the most important and effective
methods to control diseases and pests.
Mechanical Control
Mechanical control is the method that prevents pests from
damaging plants, or a method that destroys pests by hand or
with tools. Pink bollworm larvae can be controlled by shredding plants after harvest, and they can be controlled during
saw-ginning of seedcotton. Cotton stalks must be shredded
and plowed into the soil following harvest, and seedcotton
should be ginned as soon as possible. There is no pink bollworm problem where these methods are followed. Cultivating
by hand or with a tractor can effectively control weeds where
labor costs are not high and machinery is available. Weeds
should be removed before maturation to prevent them from
spreading seeds.
Biotechnical Control
There are some non-insecticide chemicals which affect on
some insect behavior, like feeding, mating, defending, hiding,
or escaping. These chemicals are called pheromones. Applications of natural or artificially produced pheromones with the
purpose of upsetting the biology, physiology or behavior of
pests are called “biotechnical control methods” (Yaşarakıncı
et al., 2004). Pheromones can be used directly or indirectly in
insect control. Traps used in biotechnical methods are given
Monitoring traps should be used intensively as soon as the first adult appears to disrupt mating between males
and females. Reduced mating decreases
pest populations gradually through decreased egg laying. Distances between
traps, the number of traps in an area and
intervals between replacement of pheromones are some important factors to be
taken into consideration (Yaşarakıncı et
al., 2004).
Visual Traps
The main use of visual or color traps is to control whitefly and
thrips. Yellow and blue colors attract thrips. Nondrying sticky
substances are spread on selected colored plates and placed in
fields. Plates are renewed when dirty, usually every couple of
weeks (Yaşarakıncı et al., 2004).
Pheromone Traps
Pheromone traps are prepared with pheromones that are specific to species and secreted to attract the opposite sex for mating. A tray with an attractive color and a nondrying sticky substance is placed in traps and a pheromone capsule is attached
inside it. Insects of the targeted sex are attracted and caught
by the sticky plates. Pheromone traps are used against some
cotton pests in the USA, Israel and Syria (Yaşarakıncı et al.,
2004). Besides these traps, there are some methods such as
feeding traps, trap combinations, blocking technique of mating, but these are used more in fruits, vegetables and greenhouse production than in cotton.
Biological Control
Animals that feed on pests are called natural enemies/predators. Use of predators in pest control is called “biological
control” (Yaşarakıncı et al., 2004). The main philosophy of
biological control is to identify predators to preserve them and
increase efficiency. There are many predators of cotton pests
in Turkey. Biological control methods have an important place
in IPM because they are more effective and cheap. Biological
contral is also an environmentally sensitive method due to the
reduction in pesticide use. Targeted pesticides are preferred
to protect and increase predator populations, instead of allkill pesticides. Heavy all-kill pesticide applications decrease
predator populations. Some predators of main cotton pests are
given in Table 2 (Anonymous, 2000). If predators are present
in a field in large enough numbers, there will be no need for
pesticide applications. Pesticide use is very low in the South
Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey because of the high number of predators. Insecticide use has gone down to almost zero
in the Kiziltepe district located in the South Eastern Anatolia
Region owing to an IPM program. Similarly, no insecticide
applications are done in Kahramanmaraş province except during occasional years.
Chemicals Control
Despite the measures mentioned in Table 2, if a pest population exceeds an economic injury level, pesticides may be the
only effective control. Priority should be given to chemicals
with low toxicity and with specific application to targeted
pests. Integrated pest management studies have produced
very successful results in Turkey. The IPM studies conducted
between 1996 and 1999 in the Aegean Region gave the same
yields as conventional cotton farming, and in some years and
some fields, IPM systems raised yields by 200 – 1,200 kg/ha
of seedcotton (Tezcan et al., 2000). The same study showed
that both the number of pesticide applications (1-4 in IPM, 3-8
in conventional) and the cost of pesticide use were decreased
(approximately 90%) (Tezcan et al., 2000). In China, IPM use
in cotton led to a 90 % reduction in pesticide use and an 84%
decrease in pest control costs. In the USA, 88% decrease in
insecticide use, with an average net return of $77 per hectare
to farmers (Anonymous, 2004).
IPM techniques are the most suitable ways to decrease pesticide use in cotton. The results of IPM studies conducted since
1995 in Turkey are being put into practice. Studies indicate
that IPM methods in Turkey can result in satisfactory yields
and reduced pesticide use. Transgenic varieties are another
option in decreasing pesticide use, although their production
has not been allowed in Turkey. Transgenic cotton may not
be effective in reducing pesticide use in Turkey since biotech
varieties are not effective against important pests in Turkey.
Anonymous. 2000. Pamukta entegre mücadele teknik talimatı.
T. C. Tarim ve Köyişleri Bakanlığı, Tarımsal Araştırmalar Genel Müdürlüğü, Bitki Sağlığı Araştırmaları Daire Başkanlığı,
Anonymous. 2003. KKGM yıllık raporu.
Anonymous. 2003. XENO-ESTROGEN SOURCES. http://
Barut, A. 2003. TAYEK/TYUAP, Tarımsal araştırma Yayım
ve Eğitim Koordinasyonu, 2003 Yılı Tarla Bitkileri Grubu
Bilgi Alışveriş Toplantısı Bildirileri, Yayın no: 113, 2-4 Eylül
2003, Menemen-Izmir.
Chaudhry, M.R. 2002. Impact of genetically engineered cotton in the world. International Cotton Advisory Committee,
2nd Meeting of the Asian Cotton Research and Development
Network Tashkent, Uzbekistan, November 14-16, 2002.
Tezcan, F., M. A. Göven, M. Topuz. 2000. IPM Applications
in cotton fields in aegean region of Turkey. The Inter-Regional
Cooperative Research Network on Cotton, 20-24 September
2000, Adana,Turkey.
Yaşarakıncı, N., Ö. Altındişli and T. Kılıç. 2004. Tarımsal
Savaşın İlkeleri Organik Tarımda Kullanılacak Yöntemler.
Optimizing Input Use: A Grower’s View
Mumtaz Muhammad Khan, cotton grower, Pakistan
A farmer is the foundation for all crop production in the
world, the ultimate beneficiary rather than the end user of any
research by agriculture scientists. The farmers of the world are
invariably in search of new practical techniques with which to
economically earn their livelihood. In olden times, whatever
a farmer grew, the produce harvested was his profit, whereas nowadays, it is what the farmer saves in inputs that is, in
fact, his profit. However, these savings are not for his personal profit. This meager amount is needed for sustenance and
future investment in coming crops. Therefore, in real terms,
these savings cannot be categorized as profit. Had this income
been net profit, world farmers might never have needed government support.
Optimizing Input Use
Cotton and human beings are interrelated. Throughout our
lives, the clothes every human wears while striving to make
his livelihood or improve his economic position, and even our
currency notes contain cotton. Thus humanity and cotton are
Cotton is a crop (determinate at times, indeterminate at others)
and no doubt a plant as well. Gossypium barbadense, hirsutum, arboreum and herbaceum are all primarily grown for the
lint. Cotton seed is a prime source of edible oil; cotton sticks
are the year-long burning fuel for village dwellers around the
world and the green leaves are a fine source of fodder for grazing livestock. The ginning residue is the best biomass to return
organic matter back to the soil.
The cotton crop requires a large investment from basic planning to harvest. The main focus is to get high yields without
sacrificing quality. The fundamental step towards the start of
any agricultural production is precision land leveling, which
is now available everywhere on a rental basis and at an affordable price. This exercise is durable and ensures uniform availability of water resulting in uniformity in the crop.
Tractors compact soils to a depth of about 10 cm and deep tillage, either by chisel plough or, preferably, with a sub-soiler, is
necessary every 4-5 years. The next step for optimum harvests
with any crop is for the farmer to choose the right rotation
crop. Green manuring and the addition of farmyard manure,
as the real natural additive for soil conservation, should be
strictly practiced. Artificial inputs such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potash, boron, zinc and micronutrients provide optimum
efficacy when the soil is rich in biomass (green manuring) and
the preceding crop in rotation is leguminous for nitrogen fixation. The best way to optimize input use is to test the soil. In
order to control height, tall growing varieties should be planted in clay soils, whereas dwarf varieties should be selected for
sandy loam soil strata in order to increase height, thus increasing production.
The salient features in cotton production may vary from farmer to farmer and country to country so I will talk about my
own situation. I start with the choice of the seed. Indigenous
varieties bred to resist soil-borne and local diseases should be
grown. The seed must be delinted, either by sulphuric acid or
foam delinting. Sinker seeds have better germination, vigor
and strength to resist adverse environments. Seed treatment
applications keep the farm nearly insect-free for the initial 4050 days, which is a blessing and a really healthy start for a
good harvest. As mentioned before, precision land leveling is
a prerequisite for proper water management. Bed and furrow
sowing or hand dibbling saves a lot on the quantity of seed
used, providing nearly one hundred percent germination. To
ensure the desired plant population, non-germinating seeds
can be hand dibbled simultaneously. Herbicides are applied
in the sowing strips and the rest of the area is cleaned with
interrow cultivators, rotary hoes, manual hoeing and a range
of tractor implements. Every effort should be made to keep
the crop absolutely free of weeds either by manual hoeing,
tractor interrow cultivation or herbicides. When the crop has
grown taller, chemicals must be applied by band application.
Weeds are a real threat to inputs because they drain away everything that is beneficial for the crop. Nitrogen fertilizer intake is quicker in weeds than in crops. Sunlight absorption
is hindered by the rapid growth of tall and ground-spreading
weeds, particularly Johnson grass, common cocklebur, field
bind weed, tall morning glory, and down under, purple nut
sedge. These weeds obstruct the passage of air as well, but
above all, weeds serve as hiding places for pests.
Timely watering of bed/furrow plantings keeps the crop green
and in good health, thus energizing photosynthesis for proper
growth and fruit formation. Placement of fertilizers close to
the root zone doubles their efficacy. In the past, millet and
sorghum were planted along the margins of the cotton crop
to attract birds that feed on the worms (starlings, sparrows,
mynas, bulbuls and other local birds). This may be a helpful compliment to the newly developed IPM techniques. Seed
treatment is good to have, but ultimately pest scouting must be
strictly practiced to assess the pest population and damage to
the crop. Pest scouting helps target specific insects with specific chemicals. Monitoring by sex pheromones and yellow
traps provides an early warning of pests. However, inappro-
priate spraying of chemicals without pest scouting often leads
to a higher number of applications, development of resistance
and the emergence of secondary pests. Also, beneficial fauna
(predators) may be eliminated with the passage of time. Unwise spraying of highly toxic chemicals and, at times, broad
spectrum chemicals may, on the one hand, pollute the atmosphere and, on the other, affect non-target insects. This practice must be stopped and replaced with innovative chemicals.
Pink bollworm ropes keep the crop free of pink bollworm
throughout the duration of the crop cycle. The efficiency of
these techniques may be doubled when similar practices are
implemented by neighboring farmers on adjoining fields. The
use of light traps at night serves as a monitoring device, but it
also kills insects.
Spraying machinery must employ state-of-the-art technology
and its performance must be foolproof. Pressure at all spray
nozzles must be uniform and should be monitored with a pressure gauge to ensure that they are dispensing the right droplet
size in accordance with the prevailing temperatures. Droplet
size should be small enough that it does not run off the leaves,
but not so small that it enters into suspension in the air resulting in evaporation and possible human inhalation. The best
time to spray is at night, when the atmosphere is dense and
insects are on the upper side of the leaves constituting a direct
target, even with lower doses of chemicals or with contact
poisons, which may be used at almost half the dosage of systemic pesticides. The recommended practice is to have qualified pest surveyors repeat the pest scouting after every spray
to be able to assess the efficacy of each pesticide application.
Investment in a qualified pest scouter saves on the total number of sprays applied. Sometimes the pest scouting surveyor
may suggest releasing Chrysopa and Trichograma to feed on
worm eggs. Both are commercially bred in many laboratories
in Pakistan.
Application of granular nitrogen before watering the fields is
not a good idea because it will leach down into the root zone.
Nitrogen should be applied preferably in split doses and in
moist soils.
The above are general recommendations. Mechanization enhances productivity, saves energy, reduces manual labor, ensures precise application of insecticides/pesticides. It helps
ensure precise placement of fertilizer in the root zone of the
crop, thus increasing productivity. But some farmers do not
have access to mechanization. My farm is 200 hectares. It is a
family-owned farm managed by me. Soil testing is a regular
practice, along with deep tillage to break up the compacted
layer and conserve moisture. First I select sinker seed and
delint it. Seed treatment is imperative. Then we water the
fields with an incorporated dose of herbicide (Pendimethalin)
for uniform mixing. The seedbeds are prepared with a rowcombi for good tilt and uniformity. Drilling is done at 61 cm
and 91 cm, which is my preferred technique as opposed to the
prevailing practice of 76 x 76 cm.
The seed is drilled at 10 kg per hectare. Thinning is done to
ensure that the plants are 25 cm apart. During the first 40 days,
the fields are not watered, but hoeing is necessary for purposes
of aeration and weeding. Ridging is done before the first watering. We use an earthing ridger set to form a 91 cm space and
a 51cm ridge, at a separation of about 20 cm on either side of
the plant rows. This plant configuration and ridging can reduce water consumption by up to 66%. The ensuing seepage
gives the plant a boost. With this method only 5 irrigations are
applied and with every irrigation there is a water economy of
66% or more.
The tractor-mounted sprayer covers the field with a spray
swath 140 cm wide. The water pressure is raised using a diaphragm pump set at 4 kg/cm2 to produce a droplet size of
600 microns, which is ideal for a uniform spray pattern. The
nozzles are fitted at a 45ß angle thus producing a uniform mist
for longer distances.
The fertilizer applied is single super phosphate (SSP) powder
spread by a fertilizer broadcaster, along with an ammonium
sulphate application using a locally made drill. It is difficult to
spread the fertilizer because it draws in moisture very quickly,
but it has to be done.
Picking on my farm is manual. The cost of production is
around US$635 per hectare. The average production on my
farm has never been less than four tons of seed cotton/ha or
about 1,320 kg of lint/ha. Cotton sticks are buried with a rotavator to return nutrients to the soil. Only the fruit or produce
of farms belongs to us; the crop residue and stalks should be
returned to the earth for further production.
I apply seed treatment, as well as pink bollworm ropes and
try to purchase innovative chemical products, if available, to
use against target insects/pests. Use of sex pheromones for
monitoring is a common practice. Insecticides are sprayed at
night, i.e. from dusk till midnight. The Provincial Agriculture
Department helps growers in pest scouting and I seek out their
recommendations, which help me to control pests.
With the above mentioned cotton cultivation requirements,
farmers are unable to go very far from their fields and spend
most of their time tending their crop production. Farming is a
no-holiday business and when professionals in other occupations are out demanding shorter working hours and increased
salaries, farmers are praying for God to increase the work day
from 24 hours to 48 hours, i.e. double the working hours, in
order to have time enough to fulfill their productive chores,
and set aside some bonus moments for rest so that they can go
on producing to sustain every living thing on earth.
There is a lot of talk about organic/biological cotton production through a range of techniques such as: IPM practices,
introduction of Chrysopa, releasing Trichograma, crop rotation, planting cover crops, yellow traps, planting Bt cotton,
using GMOs or applying organic pesticides. However, there is
also a great deal of concern about the implementation of such
techniques. If Bt varieties or organic production can save the
poor farmer from hazardous applications of toxic chemicals,
then such techniques should be awarded a Nobel Prize. If any
such exercise could be made foolproof and readily available in
any part of the world for large-scale agriculture, every farmer
would ask researchers to transfer this life-saving technology
by electronic media to this most threatened of all species: “the
farmer”. May I take the liberty of quoting an Egyptian saying:
“the farmer does not have ears - he simply has the eyes.” Until
and unless they can see for themselves, they donʼt believe.
Bt Cotton in India: The Technology Wins as
the Controversy Wanes
T. M. Manjunath, AgriBiotech, India
Bt cotton varieties developed by Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company) containing the Bollgard® Bt gene, Cry
1Ac, licensed from Monsanto, was approved by the Government of India for commercial cultivation in March 2002. This
approval was preceded by a large number of laboratory studies and about 500 field trials during 1996 - 2001 to demonstrate the safety and benefits of Bt cotton as per regulatory
requirements. The area planted with Bt cotton in 2002, was
29,415 ha. Area increased to 86,240 ha in 2003 and to 530,800
ha in 2004. A nationwide survey carried out in 2003 indicated
that the Bt cotton growers in India were able to obtain, on an
average, a yield increase of about 29% due to effective control of bollworms, a reduction in chemical sprays by 60% and
an increase in net profit by 78% as compared to their non-Bt
counterparts. The indications are that the demand for Bt cotton will grow significantly in the coming years. Realizing its
potential, 19 other seed companies have already joined Mahyco-Monsanto as their sub-licensees for Bt cotton. Details
of the development of Bt cotton, safety studies, field performance, opposition it faced, the problem of illegal Bt cotton,
and the prospects for this technology in India are outlined in
this article.
Cotton is an important cash crop in India and plays a significant role in the national economy. It supports millions of people through cultivation, processing and trade and contributes
$8 billion to the export income. The area occupied by cotton
in recent years fluctuated between 8 and 9 million hectares
in India. While India has the largest area under cotton in the
world (representing 20 to 25% of the global area), it ranks
only third in terms of production after China and the USA.
Several factors are responsible for low yields, but losses due
to insects are the most important. More than 160 species of insects attack cotton at various stages of its growth. Defoliators,
tissue borers and sap-suckers cause yield losses up to 60%.
Among the insects, bollworms (tissue borers) are the most destructive. The contribution of Bt cotton in bollworm control is
described below.
Cotton Bollworms
The cotton bollworm complex in India includes the ʻold world
bollwormʼ or ʻfalse American bollwormʼ - Helicoverpa armigera; pink bollworm - Pectinophora gossypiella; spotted bollworm - Earias vittella and spiny bollworm - Earias insulana.
The tobacco caterpillar - Spodoptera litura, also a lepidopteron, is a sporadic pest on cotton. Although predominantly a
defoliator, it can also damage cotton bolls and squares when
there is a severe outbreak.
Among the bollworms, H. armigera is dominant and the most
difficult to control, chiefly due to its widespread insecticide resistance, multivoltine and prolific pattern of breeding and high
polyphagy. It is a highly destructive and wasteful feeder in the
sense that a single larva can damage many squares and bolls.
H. armigera has a wide distribution, but is limited to the old
world i.e., Europe, Asia, Russia, Africa, Australasia and the
Pacific Islands. The species commonly found in the Americas
are Helicoverpa zea and Heliothis virescens, popularly called
ʻbollwormʼ and ʻtobacco budworm,ʼ respectively. Hence, reference to H. armigera as ʻAmerican bollwormʼ is misleading.
To avoid any confusion, it is better to call H. armigera as ʻold
world bollwormʼ or ʻfalse American bollworm.ʼ
Chemical insecticides are used extensively on cotton to control insect pests, especially bollworms. The number of sprays
per crop season varies from 5 to 20 or more. Insecticides
worth about $660 million are used annually in Indian agriculture, of which $352 million are spent for the control of cotton
pests, and of this $264 million against bollworms alone. In
terms of volume, about 54% of the total insecticides used in
Indian agriculture are sprayed on cotton. This indicates the
economic importance of bollworms in general and H. armigera in particular. Despite huge efforts, bollworm control has
not been satisfactory because the pest developed resistance
to most of the currently recommended insecticides. Nevertheless, farmers continue to use insecticides repeatedly as they
have no option except to “spray” or “pray.” This has frustrated
farmers, scientists and policy makers alike. Bt cotton came at
a time when they were desperately looking for an alternative,
dependable control measure.
Development of Bt Cotton
(Bollgard®) in India
Realizing the economic importance of cotton bollworms and
the benefits Bt cotton can offer to growers, Mahyco (Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company), a leading Indian seed company, in collaboration with Monsanto, took the initiative to
introduce this technology into India.
As per regulatory procedure, Mahyco sent its application to
the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Government of India, in March 1995 seeking permission to introduce this technology. On obtaining approval, Mahyco received about 100
gms of Bt cotton seeds containing the Bollgard® Bt gene, Cry
1Ac, from Monsanto, USA, in March 1996. These seeds were
first tested in India under greenhouses for germination, plant
vigor and efficacy against the Indian cotton bollworms. These
were also used in greenhouse breeding programmes. Thus,
40 elite Indian parental lines were introgressed with the Cry
1Ac gene by crossing with the Bt gene donor parent obtained
from Monsanto. Mahyco developed several Bt cotton hybrids
suitable for different agro-climatic regions, and these were
already popular with farmers. Some of these conventional
hybrids were converted into Bollgard® using the converted
parental lines and tested for their performance and safety as
described below.
Regulatory Studies on Safety
In India, two federal ministries are involved in the regulation
of GMOs – Ministry of Science & Technology (MoST) and
Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF). The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) functions under MoST. Two
important committees, the Institutional Bio-Safety Committee
(IBSC) and the Review Committee on Genetic Modification
(RCGM), work under the guidance of DBT. Another major
committee, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee
(GEAC), was constituted under MoEF. These committees are
represented by experts drawn from various fields and organizations across the country and are responsible to ensure that
proactive safety studies are carried out on GM products before
they are approved for commercialization.
As per the direction and guidelines of the regulatory authorities, a number of studies were carried out to assess the safety
of the protein expressed in Bt cotton plants with regard to its
potential for allergenicity, toxicity, gene flow, cross pollination, effects on non-target beneficial organisms and, impacts
on soil microorganisms. These data were examined by expert
Feed-safety studies with Bt cottonseed meal were carried out
with goats, buffalos, cows, rabbits, birds and fish. The results
revealed that the animals fed with Bt cotton seed meal were
comparable to the control animals in various tests and showed
no ill-effects. These studies were carried out by the Industrial
Table 1. Chronology of Development and Approval of Bt Cotton in India
1995 (March)
Mahyco applied to DBT (Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India) for permission
to import a small stock of Bollgard® (Bt cotton) seeds from Monsanto Company,
With the approval of DBT, a nucleus stock of about 100 gms of cotton seeds
containing the Bollgard® Bt gene, Cry 1Ac, was received by Mahyco from Monsanto,
Initiated crossing with the Indian cotton breeding lines to introgress Cry 1Ac gene.
40 elite Indian parental lines were converted into transgenic Bt lines.
Risk-Assessment Studies conducted using Bt cotton seeds from converted Indian
Pollen escape studies
Aggressiveness and persistence studies
Biochemical analysis
Toxicological studies on ruminants (goats)
Allergenicity study on rabbits
1998 – 1999
Field trials at 40 locations in 9 states to assess agronomic benefits and safety. Data
submitted to RCGM (Review Committee for Genetic Modification), Ministry of
Science & Technology, Govt. of India.
1999 – 2000
Field trials repeated at 10 locations in 6 states. Data submitted to RCGM.
2000 (July)
Based on the recommendation of RCGM, the GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee), Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India, gave approval for
Mahyco to conduct large scale field trials on 85 ha and also undertake seed
production on 150 ha.
Kharif 2001 – Large scale field trials covering 100 ha. Field trials were also
conducted by the All India Coordinated Cotton Improvement Project of the Indian
Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
On 26 March 2002, GEAC approved Mahycoʼs three Bt cotton hybrids, Mech 12,
Mech 162 and Mech 184, for commercial cultivation in India. This approval was
initially valid for three years and also stipulated other conditions.
This is a landmark decision as Bt cotton is the first-ever transgenic crop to receive regulatory
approval in India.
Toxicological Research Centre, Lucknow; National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal; Central Institute of Fisheries Education, Mumbai; Central Avian Research Institute, Bareily; National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad; and Govind Vallabh
Pant University for Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar.
Studies were also conducted on the effects of leachate from Bt
cotton plants on soil rhizosphere and non-rhizosphere microflora, soil collembola and earthworms. The results showed no
differences between the soils where Bt and non-Bt plants had
been grown. The information generated on pollen dispersal
has established that airborne pollen transmission in cotton is
limited to only a couple of meters, and the risk of undesirable
introgressive hybridization with related species is minimal.
Further, Bt cotton hybrids are tetraploid in genetic composition whereas their nearest relatives, the local “Desi” cotton
varieties, are diploid and hence are genetically incompatible
for hybridization. Studies also revealed that Bt cotton had no
adverse impact on biological control agents like ladybird beetles, green lacewings and parasitic hymenoptera.
Studies were also carried out to determine the levels of Bt protein expressed in different tissues (terminal leaves, squares and
bolls) at different ages of the crop and at different locations.
The results revealed that although
the expression varied among tissues and with the age of the plant,
the amount of protein present in
various tissues at any time was adequate to bring about mortality of
the early instar bollworms.
Baseline susceptibility data were
also generated for a number of
geographic populations of Helicoverpa armigera so that it can
serve as a benchmark for monitoring resistance, if any, in the future.
These studies were carried out
prior to commercial cultivation of
Bt cotton by the Project Directorate of Biological Control, ICAR,
Field trials conducted from 1998
to 2001 clearly indicate that Bt
cotton hybrids provided effective
control of the bollworm complex
in all locations and seasons. Data
generated on all these aspects were
submitted to DBT/RCGM for review.
India Approves Bt
Cotton – The First
Agribiotech Product
Based on the recommendation of RCGM, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), in its 32nd meeting
held in New Delhi on 26th March 2002, approved Mahycoʼs
Bt cotton for commercial cultivation, pronouncing it to be
beneficial and safe. This was a landmark decision as Bt cotton is the first-ever agribiotech product to receive such approval. With the decision, India made its entry into commercial agricultural biotechnology. This approval specified three
Bt hybrids, Mech 12, Mech 162 and Mech 184, which had
undergone all the trials, and approval was initially granted
for three years. The approval also stipulated other conditions.
Every Bt cotton field must be fully surrounded by a ʻrefugeʼ
crop comprising the same non-Bt cotton hybrids, and the size
of the refuge shall be at least five rows of non-Bt, or 20% of
the total sown area, whichever is greater. The “refuge” is to
ensure the survival of Bt-sensitive insects, thereby helping to
prevent or delay the development of resistance by bollworms
to the Bt protein produced in each plant. “Refuges” also act as
a “pollen sink” area.
The chronology of events that led to the development and approval of Bt cotton in India are summarized in Table 1.
Field Performance
Opposition to Bt Cotton
Three Bt cotton hybrids, Mech 12, Mech 162 and Mech 184
were commercially planted in 2002 on 29,415 ha in six states
- Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh,
Gujarat and Tamil Nadu. Area increased to 86,240 ha in 2003
and to 530,800 ha in 2004. The results demonstrated the following benefits from Bt cotton:
Bt cotton faced opposition from organizations and individuals from the beginning of its introduction and even before it
had complete regulatory studies. A farmersʼ organization in
Karnataka, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), uprooted and burnt a few approved experimental crops in 1998 and
1999, wrongly accusing that Bt cotton contained the so-called
“Terminator Technology” and the gene would escape and
cause “Gene pollution” and sterility in other plants. They also
alleged that Bt protein is harmful to humans, farm animals,
other beneficial organisms and soil. They threatened farmers
with serious consequences if they planted Bt cotton. They also
held repeated public demonstrations against this technology.
• Good control of bollworm species (false American bollworm, pink bollworm, spotted bollworm, spiny bollworm)
in all locations and seasons
• Significantly higher boll retention and higher yields than
the control or non-Bt cotton crop
• Reduction in chemical sprays for bollworm control
• Substantial increase in net income to farmers
• No adverse impact on non-target organisms and the adjacent non-Bt cotton or other crops
During the growing season of Kharif 2003, commercial performance trends were tracked by Mahyco for approximately
3,000 farmers covering most cotton growing states in central
and south India. Data were taken for all three Bollgard® hybrids. The largest sample was taken in the state of Maharashtra
due to greater availability of resources. From a total sample
size of 1,700 Maharashtra farmers, trends for relative economic gain in favour of Bollgard® hybrids ranged from $330
to $420 per hectare among the three hybrids. For all Bollgard®
hybrids, the average number of insecticide applications for the
bollworm complex was about 50% less than that required for
conventional commercial hybrids. Seed cotton yields, with
Bollgard® hybrids ranged from 1,900 to 2,170 kg per hectare,
compared to conventional hybrids where yields varied from
1,100 to 1,309 kg per hectare. Similar trends were documented in other surveyed states. The average net economic benefit
from Bollgard® hybrids over non-Bt hybrids among all states
in the survey ranged from $208 to 685 per hectare.
A nationwide survey carried out by ACNeilsen-ORG MARG
in 2003 which included 3,063 farmers (1,672 Bt farmers and
1,391 conventional farmers) from Maharashtra, Madhya
Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Gujarat (Tamil Nadu
could not be included as the harvest was yet to be completed)
clearly indicated the benefits of Bollgard® cotton. It indicated
that the Bt cotton growers in India were able to obtain an average yield increase of 29% (range 18% to 40%) due to effective control of bollworms, a reduction in chemical sprays by
60% (range 51% to 71%) and an increase in net profit by 78%
(range 66% to 164%) as compared to non-Bt cotton. The net
profit translates to an average of $161 (ranging from $123 to
265) per hectare. According to the survey, over 90% of Bollgard® users and over 40% of non-users expressed the intent to
purchase Bollgard® seeds in the coming season.
There were also other critics. Whenever a cotton crop failed
in a certain area, be it due to drought or other environmental stress, wilt or other diseases, sucking pests or any other
reason, critics attributed the failure to the Bt-technology and
blamed the company as well as the government. They encouraged farmers to claim compensation from the company, ignoring the fact that Bt cotton was developed specifically to offer
protection against bollworms, not against any other adverse
factors. Their actions and statements received prominent coverage in the print and electronic media and created doubt and
confusion in the minds of farmers and the public. It took enormous efforts on the part of Monsanto and Mahyco to mitigate such negative publicity. The role played by DBT, which
stood by this technology and organized several educational
seminars on biotechnology in several states, is commendable.
Except for a very few scientists, the rest of the scientific community remained silent when this emerging technology was
unreasonably attacked and misinformation was spread.
The practical results obtained in India with Bt cotton demonstrated that it is safe and beneficial. The results are comparable with those in other countries where Bt cotton was
commercialized, starting from 1996 in Australia and the USA.
Critics of Bt varieties have little impacts on farmers who have
personally cultivated or observed Bt cotton and realized its
benefits. It is apparent that as the technology wins, the controversy wanes.
Illegal Bt Cotton in India
Realizing the potential of Bt cotton in India, certain unscrupulous agencies are exploiting the situation through sales of
unapproved Bt cotton or spurious seeds. In fact, illegal seeds
were introduced into the market while Mahyco was still carrying out regulatory trials and waiting for government approval.
Illegal seeds were first discovered in Gujarat in 2000, and
Navbharat was identified as the offending company. Later, illegal seeds were found in several other states also where they
occupied, and continue to occupy, considerable area. It has the
following implications:
• Unapproved commercialization of biotech products is a
blatant violation of bio-safety norms and is a punishable offense.
• Spurious producers are not accountable for purity, performance and safety. They may spoil the credibility of the
product and technology.
• Ilegal sellers can afford to sell their products at a much
lower price as their investment on research is meager.
• Illegal sales will affect the confidence and enthusiasm of
genuine technology developers who invest a lot of time, talent and money in developing new products and getting their
approval through due regulatory procedures.
• Farmers will be misled and confused.
Illegal Bt cotton is a blatant contravention of bio-safety norms
and business ethics. Although the government has shown
some concern and initiated action, this serious issue needs to
be curbed more urgently and more strictly with severe penalties.
Prospects for Bt Cotton
Bt cotton was first commercialized in the USA in 1996 and
subsequently in Australia (1996), Argentina (1997), China
(1997), Mexico (1998), South Africa (1998), Colombia (2002)
and India (2002). As of 2003, transgenic cotton varieties were
planted on 7.2 million hectares in nine countries. Substantial increases in yields due to effective control of bollworms,
considerable reductions in chemical sprays and significant increases in net profit to farmers are reported in all countries.
In India, bollworms are a major threat to the cotton crop.
Hybrid cotton is more severely attacked than local varieties.
The total area under cotton in India is about 9.0 million ha of
which 4.8 million ha are occupied by hybrids and rest by nonhybrid varieties. In 2004, Bt cotton occupied only 530,000 ha
which constituted less than 6% of the total cotton area or 11%
of the hybrid area. Indications are that the area will continue
to increase significantly in the coming years. Realizing this
potential, about 19 seed companies in India, who have their
own cotton hybrids suited for different regions, have already
joined Mahyco and Monsanto as their sub-licensees for Bt
cotton. Their hybrids, as well as Mahycoʼs new hybrids incorporated with Cry 1Ac, are already undergoing regulatory
trials. In fact, a Bt hybrid, RCH 2, developed by Rasi Seed
Company already received regulatory approval in 2004.
Mahyco is also carrying out regulatory trials with Bollgard®
II stacked with two Bt genes, Cry 1Ac along with Cry 2Ab,
also licensed from Monsanto. Bollgard® II already received
commercial approval in Australia in September 2002 and in
the USA in December 2002. It is superior to Bollgard® in performance and host range (in addition to other bollworms, it is
also effective against Spodoptera spp.) and also makes a very
good product for insect resistance management (IRM).
Planting refuge crop is mandatory in India as in the USA,
Australia and other countries as a strategy towards insect
resistance management. In India, Helicoverpa armigera, by
far the predominant bollworm attacking cotton, also infests a
large number of other crops like chickpea, pigeonpea, tomato,
sunflower, maize and sorghum. These crops occupy substantial areas and are cultivated around the cotton crop at the same
time in several parts of south and central India. These crops,
especially chickpea and pigeonpea, support larger populations
of H. armigera than cotton, thereby serving as natural refuge
and helping IRM. Further, as the area presently occupied by
Bt cotton is very small (i.e., less than 6% of the total cotton
area or 11% of hybrid cotton), a huge crop of non-Bt hybrids
and varieties are also available as refuge. In view of this, it appears that growing non-Bt cotton as structured refuge may not
be required in India. In fact, in China, for the same reasons,
structured refuge is not mandatory.
Bt cotton is a well-researched scientific product. The facts reveal that in the last 7-8 years of its commercial cultivation
in various countries, it has brought significant economic and
environmental benefits and did not cause any untoward incidents related to bio-safety, environment or pest resistance.
While it may not be worthwhile trying to convince opponents,
efforts should be made to prevent misleading and incorrect information going unchallenged. Public relations will continue
to be a tough challenge for biotechnology and calls for greater
efforts towards biotech awareness and education. Scientific
outreach is a highly skilled job where science should be made
understandable to common people. Bt cotton is a remarkable
product, and Indian farmers should be encouraged to derive
the maximum benefit from it like millions of farmers in other
AC Neilsen-ORG MARG. 2003. Nationwide survey underscores benefits of Bollgard® cotton.
Barwale, R. B., R. B. Gadwal, U. Zehr and B. Zehr. 2004.
Prospects for Bt cotton technology in India. AgBioForum, 7
(1&2): 23-26, http://www.agbioforum.
Ghosh, P. K. 2001. Genetically engineered crops in India with
special reference to Bt cotton. IPM Mitr 1: 1 – 21.
James, C. 2002 & 2003. Global Review of Commercialized
Transgenic Crops: 2002 & 2003. International Service for
the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications Briefs, ISAAA,
Ithaca, New York, USA.
Jayaraman, K. S. 2002. India approves GM cotton. Nature
Biotech, 20 (5): p 415.
Manjunath, T. M. 2004. Bt cotton: Safety assessment, risk
management and cost-benefit analysis. pp. 366-369, In Khadi
et al. (Eds) - “International Symposium on Strategies for Sustainable Cotton Production – A Global Vision”, Vol. 1, Crop
Improvement, 23-25 November 2004, University of Agricultural Sciences, 482 pp., Dharwad, Karnataka, India.
Mohan, K. S. and T. M. Manjunath. 2002. Bt Cotton – Indiaʼs
first transgenic crop. J. Plant Biol, 29 (3): 225-236.
Qaim, M. and D. Zilberman. 2003. Yield effects of genetically modified crops in developing countries. Science, 299:
Ravi, K. C., K. S. Mohan, T. M. Manjunath, G. Head, B. V.
Patil, R. J. Rabindra, J. Peter and N. G. V. Rao. 2004. Relative
Abundance of Helicoverpa armigera (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) on different host crops in India and the role of these crops
as natural refugia for Bt cotton. Environmental Entomology
Population Biology (accepted, in press).
Zehr, B. E. and S. Sandhu. 2004. Commercial performance
of Bollgard® cotton hybrids in India during the Kharif 2003
season and future prospects for transgenic cotton breeding and
technology improvement. pp. 353-356. In Khadi et al. (Eds)
- “International Symposium on Strategies for Sustainable
Cotton Production – A Global Vision”. Vol. 1, Crop Improvement, 23-25 November 2004. University of Agricultural Sciences, 482 pp., Dharwad, Karnataka, India.
Multiple Uses of Biotechnology
Kater Hake, Delta and Pine Land Company, USA
Cotton farmers are benefiting from the significant research investment that has applied modern tools of biotechnology and
genetics to the control of both weed and insect pests. This investment has resulted in the following commercialized insect
control and herbicide tolerance genes in elite cotton germplasm: the Cry Bt proteins (Cry 1Ac, Cry 1Ab, Cry 1F and
Cry 2Ab), Cowpea Trypsin Inhibitor (CpTI) a non-Bt gene,
and the herbicide tolerance genes for bromoxinyl, glyphosate
and glufosinate.
In addition to these commercialized genes, the following novel technologies are being tested in cotton: non-Cry insecticidal
proteins, additional herbicidal genes, fiber quality, seed quality, stress tolerance and disease tolerance.
Looking towards the future, several biotech traits could play a
significant role in improving the efficiency with which farmers can produce cotton. Additional insect control genes could
be beneficial to further delay insect resistance to Cry 1 and
Cry 2 proteins, and could be essential for production efficiency if resistance develops to these two commercialized classes
of proteins. A loss of efficacy from the current Cry genes may
necessitate a return to previous insecticidal usage unless alternative insect control genes are developed in elite germplasm.
Some of the alternative genes currently being considered in
cotton include: lectins, additional protease inhibitors, and a
vegetative insecticidal protein.
Herbicide tolerance research continues to expand in cotton
with additional glyphosate tolerance mechanisms and novel
herbicide tolerance categories. Fiber and seed quality improvement is a long term challenge. However cotton research
continues in China (Mainland), Europe, Australia and the
Increased tolerance to stress by cotton plants could lower risk
and enhance productivity. Targets are being investigated in
cotton that could confer drought tolerance, salt tolerance and
chilling injury tolerance.
Disease tolerance could have a huge impact on tropical cotton
due to weather patterns that favor disease progression and the
lack of cold temperatures to break disease cycles. Biotechnology is being applied to traits targeted at both fungal and viral
Current planting seed adoption patterns suggest that farmers
will continue to want seed-based technologies that address
multiple efficiency robbing problems. Delivering multiple solutions in the seed is a highly efficient mechanism to address
the yield and efficiency robbing hazards that cotton farmers
face. Although plant breeders and seed companies will be
challenged by the incorporation of multiple traits into elite
germplasm, benefits to farmers should encourage the necessary investment. Whether this investment is available depends
less on scientific limitations and more on regulatory hurdles
and delays, business models that provide a return from the
long term investment, and product stewardship and utilization
Why Fear Biotechnology?
Lastus K. Serunjogi, National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), Uganda
The scope of biotechnology is large (ICAC, 2002). Biotechnology includes experimental techniques for evaluating and
manipulating the genetic materials of organisms. Experiments
indicate molecular analysis of genetic material, hybridiza-
tion (even among least related parents), organ and cell culture, plant regeneration, microbial biochemistry and molecular biology and genetics. However, this article on “Why fear
biotechnology?” is, confined to the biotechnology involving
genetically engineered (GE) plants. These are plants whose
genetic materials have been altered through recombinant
DNA (r DNA) technology making them capable of producing
new substances or performing new functions.
GE plants have potential roles in increasing productivity of
food and cash crops. This can be through enhanced resistance
or tolerance to adverse environments, and resistance to severe
pest infestations. GE plants can play a role in easing crop
storage and transportation arising from grain/seed resistance
to post-harvest micro-organisms and invertebrate pests. GE
plants also play a role in the availability of essential nutritional requirements, including vitamins and amino acids. The nutritionally-enhancing or “nutraceutical” GE crops have applications for improving diet and health of people and livestock
(Atikins, 2003). These include, for example, rice modified to
express increased levels of ?-carotene (precursor of vitamin
A) or legumes modified for increased levels of the essential
amino acid Methionine. This article will describe the reasons
of fear and skepticism about GE cotton. Since the application of modern biotechnology tools is resulting in expanding
the number of products in cotton other than those of modified
genetic composition, a preferred term for biotechnology-facilitated cotton is “biotech cotton” (ICAC, 2004a). Biotech
cotton has been produce commercilly for ten years since it
was introduced by Monsanto in 1996 (ICAC, 2000). This was
after Perlak et al., (1990), introduced Cry 1Ac and Cry 2Ab
genes into cotton plants and showed high levels of resistance
to cotton bollworms (Helicoverpa spp.). The genes inserted in
the first generation of biotech cotton offered management of
production inputs. Bt Cotton offered control of Lepidopteran
pests, the Helicoverpa group e.g. and Monsanto’s Roundup
Ready (RR) cotton produced resistant to herbicides. Research
on biotech cotton for increased outputs e.g. yields and quality, have come later (ICAC, 2004 a&b). In spite of expanding
research on production and use of biotech cotton, there have
been fears and skepticism about these varieties specifically
and about biotechnology in general.
Categories of Fears of Biotechnology in Cotton
Potential Health and Environmental Risks from
Biotech Cotton
Biotech cotton may offer many benefits, but potential users
have recognized or expressed concern over the potential risks
to human health and the environment. These constitute the
first category of “fears” of biotechnology or of biotech cotton.
The fears in this category have in the 10 years period been discussed and some resolved through scientific-based studies. To
address those fears risks to human health and the environment
must be assessed before biotech varieties may be released.
Risk assessments are the essence of biosafety regulations
and protocols in the biotechnology arena. These have become
mandatory in countries using biotechnology.
Fears on health include, among other things:
• Toxicity of the Bt proteins to humans and animals
This fear has generated studies ranging from detailed understanding of the biology of cotton and products and biproducts (e.g. cooking oil, livestock meals) through characterization of the introduced proteins and their levels in
the products, to feeding studies of the products in rats and
other animals.
• Human and animal development of resistance to antibiotics used in treatment of diseases
This arose from a realization that antibiotic genes were
inserted in the experimental cotton cells for ease of identifying those transformed from the non-transformed types
(ICAC, 2000b).
Fears about environmental degradation are expected to stem
mainly from;
• Creation of “super weeds” through gene – flow between
biotech cotton and wild relatives. This was coupled with a
fear of affecting the composition of plant genetic resources and biodiversity. The incompatibility among, and geographical distribution of the concerned species have alleviated fears to some extent.
• Emergence of other weeds not controlled by the herbicides in use on the herbicide – resistant cotton, and over
use of herbicides on biotech cotton which would eventually
contaminate the environment.
• Emergence of other pests in cotton not affected by the Bt
• Lepidopteran target pests developing resistance to the Bt
toxins due to their continuous exposure to the delta- endotoxin. Such resistance, and even cross resistance (resistance
of a pest to different types of toxins e.g. Cry 1Aa-c series)
have been reported (Shen et al., 1998). New technologies
involving deployment of Bt genes with different modes of
action in biotech varieties over time periods and distances,
coupled with use of refugia crops which dilute the build
up of resistance through mating of insects susceptible to
the toxins with those which have developed resistance, are
among the reasons this fear has been alleviated (ICAC,
• Adverse effects on non-target insect species by Bt toxins, including beneficial insects in farming systems, which
are useful in biocontrol programs for other crop pests. It
is now realized that the fears about biotechnology-based
risks to human health and the environment will continue as
new developments in biotechnology take place. The risks
to the environment can be minimized through proper caseby-case assessment of the necessary precautions required
while applying biotech innovations to particular uses and
environments or geographic regions. Fears of effects on human health can be abated through wide harmonization of
regulatory requirements (ICAC, 2004a).
Fears due to Impediments to Biotechnology Applications
The second category of fears about biotechnology arises out
of impediments, or hurdles, in the course of effecting biotechnology applications. This is the major source of fear about
biotechnology today in developing countries. The magnitudes
and impacts of this category vary with the type and levels of
the national economy and the development of agricultural
farming systems such as large commercial scale vis-avis subsistence farming. These impediments can be sub-categorized
Requirements of Enabling Policies and Regulatory Legal Frameworks on Biotechnology
The required assessments for risks toward health and the
environment mentioned above require individual countries
or regions having policies and legal frameworks on development, testing, application and protection of biotechnological
innovations. These include, among others:
• Policies on biotechnology and biosafety regulations. Scientists may realize the need for the legal framework to be in
place before they can introduce or work on biotechnological
options. This is especially so on requirements for handling,
containment and confinement of materials during testing.
Scientists depend on the perception and pace of policy makers who may have biased attitudes toward biotechnology
and may slow the regulatory processes. There are a number
of guidelines and options on the formulation of policies and
regulations on biotechnology. There are, for example, international treaties and conventions, which if the country is a
party to, could be ratified for preliminary use before being
fully domesticated into national laws. These include, inter
alia, the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity (1992),
and the Cartagena (2004) protocol on biosafety. There are
also examples of regional guidelines for countries intending
to formulate bio-safety regulations, for example the OAU
(now African Union) Model on Biotech Regulations (OAU,
2001). The required policies need to be widely embraced to
safeguard human health and the environmental prior to use.
The use of biotechnology requires multidisciplinary teams
to formulate required policies and to be enacted into laws
by legislative bodies.
- Once regulations are developed, a regulatory authority
is needed, and this must be an infrastructure that empowers the authority to monitor and enforce the regulations. These add costs to the processes of biotechnology
application and regulation.
- It is encouraging to note that, in addition to existing
guidelines on biosafety regulations, there are international programs which are ready to support interested
countries in setting up biosafety regulations. These
programs offer technical, financial and information resources. Many African countries have utilized programs
funded by the United Nations Environment Program
(UNEP) and its associated unit our Global Environment
Facility (UNEP-GEF) biosafety unit, the United Nations
Industrial Development Program (UNIDO) and United
Nations Development Program (UNDP) to develop biosafety regulations (Atikins, 2004). Uganda, with the assistance of UNEP-GEF, developed a draft biotechnology
biosafety framework (Anon., 2000).
• Intellectual property (IP) management policies are essential at institutional and national levels to provide protection for technologies. Effective negotiations are needed on
appropriate terms for use of biotechnological innovations
by needy countries/firms. Lack of basic policies discourage private technology suppliers from operating in countries where there are no agreements on the disclosure of
information, licensing for exchange/accessing of material
and deciding on royalties for the technologies. In return, the
licensee (recipient) of the technology in countries lacking
such policies lacks confidence to negotiate the terms of use
(Erbisch and Maredia, 2003). Such arrangements call for
having in place Intellectual Property Offices (IPOs) and officers, which have associated costs. The guiding principles
for developing IP management programs can be drawn from
international conventions or agreements. For example, the
Trade Related Intellectual Property Right (TRIPS) agreement, the CBD convention and the FAOʼs International
Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture
(ITPGRFA) are available.
Costs of Infrastructure and Capacity for Biotechnology
The development of biotechnology innovations requires investments in laboratory infrastructure and trained personnel.
In countries with still developing economies the costs become
prohibitive. Solutions could be produced by the development
of international or regional co-operations/networks which can
enable sharing of resources for laboratories and personnel.
For example the East African Regional Program and Research
Network for biotechnology, biosafety and biotechnology policy development (BIO-EARN) is now developping biotechnology regulations for Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda
(Anon., 2003). The absence of relevant national policies on
biotechnology is a hindrance at the start of such cooperation,
even if a country decided to deal with multinational private
Systems of Input Supply and Costs
• Additional fears towards biotech/biotechnology stem
from the development levels of agriculture in individual
countries. This is especially so with regard to arrangements
for the source and distribution of transgenic planting seed.
In subsistence agriculture, farmers depend traditionally on
farm-saved seed and exchanges between farmers for food
and cash crops. In Uganda, for example, cotton farms average one hectare. There is organized seed replacement
regulated by the Cotton Development Organization (CDO).
Seed from line-varieties developed through conventional
breeding by public research institutions traverse through
five generations of planting. Seed moves from a small production area in a given season to cover a larger zone the
following season. This arrangement makes planting seed affordable to subsistence farmers. Biotech seed is replantable
over seasons while maintaining their intended attributes
(ICAC, 2000 and 2002b) but intellectual property requirements of the biotech seed developers prohibit seasonal seed
saving and replanting. Seasonal replenishment of planting
seed will disrupt arrangements for input distribution in such
a case.
• The cost of the biotech seed is unaffordable for resourcepoor farmers such as those targeted in a Uganda development program, Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP).
Cotton is a poverty alleviation crop in Uganda and is produced in 35 of 56 districts in the country by over 500,000
farm-families of approximately five people per family.
Production is about 30,000 metric tons of lint annually that
provides increased livelihoods for poor framers. Twelve
kilos of seed required for planting one hectare cost $4.5
in Uganda. However, farmers cannot afford to pay in advance and seek credit to be settled at the end of the season
to be included in seed cotton prices. When the situation is
compared to the reports on the costs of biotech seeds in
South Africa at $60 for 25 kg of seeds to plant a hectare
in 2001 (ICAC, 2002a), the cost was expected to rise to $
70 in 2002/03 season). In India (Madhya Pradesh, Andra
Pradesh, Tamil Nadu etc areas), Bt seed was expected to
be sold at $71 for planting a hectare in comparison to $20
for conventional hybrids (ICAC, 2004b). In China, Bt seed
costs $60/ha (Russel, 2004). The cost of seeds alone would
drive most cotton farmers in Uganda (and in other developing countries) out of production. It should be noted that in
Uganda, the use of scouting and other integrated pest management (IPM) options has led to a reduction from four calendar sprays per season to three or fewer. Seed cotton yields
have been reported to range between 500-2,500 kg/ha (Russel, 2004). Therefore the cost of insecticides, or the load of
pesticides in the environment, would not justify the farmers high cost of biotech seeds. South Africa farmers use an
average of eight sprays, (ICAC, 2002b), and India reported
over 19 sprays per season. The most appropriate biotech options would be those which do not exclude resource-poor
farmers from cotton production. In addition to the cost of
biotech seeds, farmers in Uganda would still need to control
other pests, including aphids, lygus and stainers. Furthermore, the high cost of biotech seeds would be a disadvantage in Uganda where seed cotton prices have never been
above $0.50/kg since they are dependant on international
prices for lint. The high cost of biotech seeds have also been
decried as prohibitive in Mali according to BBC-News of
November 2004.
Inadequate Knowledge on Intentions for Biotechnology
Other fears about the use of biotechnology products arise
from inadequate knowledge of users about the intentions of
the innovations.
• An outstanding example is the system developed by the
US Department of Agriculture, jointly with Delta and Pine
Land Company, that would have caused transgenic cotton
plants to produce sterile seeds. The technology was called
“Terminator” or “Technology Protection System.” It was
meant to protect companiesʼ investments in biotech cotton.
It was patented in 1998 (ICAC 1998, 2000 and 2002b). It
was not commercialized due to the implications for small
scale farmers and their supporting organizations who wished
to save seeds. However, even though the technology was
abandoned, it sent harmful signals about the intentions of
biotechnologists. In many debates today on biotechnology,
the issue of terminator still dominates other issues and leads
to wrong decisions even by policy makers who suspect that
the technology could also “terminate” or affect reproduction ability of humans.
• Atikins (2004) cited other examples where the use of biotechnologies could be inhibited by the potential usersʼ inability to adhere to the required precautions in the use of
a given technology. For example, one management practice to reduce the risk of transfer of modified genes from
a GE crop to wild relatives could be to harveste the plant
before it flowers. If there were chances of farmers or users
neglecting such a step, through lack of understanding of the
implications, then the use of technology would affect the
level of risk posed by biotechnology. In such cases, the fear
of release of biotechnology would be on the innovator not
the user.
In essence some of the fear about biotechnology arises through
a lack of inadequate information and training on the part of
potential users or policy makers.
Efficiency and Implications of Technology Use
on Conventional Breeding Programs
• The first generation of biotech provided varieties having
single gene attributes with limited efficiency on pest control
(type and period of control), For example, Monsantoʼs Bollgard cotton with the Cry 1Ac gene. This continued narrow
spectrum of bollworms and had little effect on late pests
due to low expressions of Bt toxins in floral parts. Whereas
the breadth of control has now been expanded in Bollgard
II with the addition of the Cry 2Ab gene (ICAC, 2004b),
and in Wide Striketm cotton from Dow Agro Sciences with
a combination of Cry 1Ac and Cry 1F Bt proteins which
offer season-long protection against a wide spectra of lepidopteran pests. However, the initial limitations on biotech
efficiency instilled fear in some users. Additionally, the
Roundup Ready cotton had a limited window of application of up to only 4 leaf-stages when cotton would be safely
protected from herbicide. The difficulty in adhering to such
a narrow window raised fears. There are new options providing a large application window of up to 10 leaf-stages
in the Bayer Crop Sciences Liberty® Link cotton and up to
14 leaf-stages in Monsantoʼs Roundup Ready Flex variety.
(ICAC, 2004 b).
• Whereas producing countries may wish to utilize biotech.
they may be limited by the acceptability of the resultant
produce in traditional markets. A case for citation is Uganda
which produces high quality G. hirsutum cotton: The fibers
have been improved and now classified as long-stapled and
even fetch premium prices in some markets. Uganda exports 90% of its cotton, mainly to European market. If Europe demanded non-biotech products, Uganda would lose
the market. On the other hand, changing to biotech cotton
may not offer another market, since already in 2003/04 biotech contributed to 21% of world cotton area, 30% of the
world production and 34% of international trade (ICAC,
2004b). Uganda would therefore not be able to compete
with its limited production with the already enlarging biotech supply after losing its traditional markets. This fear is
now being alleviated on learning that European consumers
are not rejecting biotech products.
• The procedures for regenerating transformed cotton cells
into plants raised concerns among conventional breeder because not all cotton varieties had the capability of regeneration. Transformation was therefore made in “foreign” varieties, rather than a recipientsʼ own elite lines which were
endowed with specific attributes to increase yields and or
important fiber quality or provide resistance to disease and
pests other than lepidopteran pests. East African varieties
are selected for hairiness on leaves and stems for the control
of jassid. The jassid problem would resurge if the varieties
were replaced by hairless or glaburescent types. (The situation though could be corrected by a series of backcrosses
of the transgenics to the “elite”, desired varieties). The consequences of adopting biotech varieties in foreign countries
would mean the loss of traditional attributes such as fiber
quality, resistance to the local races of bacterial blight and
wilt diseases incorporated in traditional varieties over decades would be lost. It is notable that new methods of genetic engineering are being developed where the need to
regenerate plants from a single cell is avoided (ICAC, 2004
• Another source of fear to potential users of biotech arises
from the number of biotech varieties to be used. This arises
from having a single or a few advantageous genes put in the
transgenics separately rather than stacking them in single
varieties for insect resistance and resistance to herbicides.
Large numbers of varieties are difficult to handle in small
scale production systems. This may lead to “Technology
Fatigue” on the side of the farmers and the input supplying
• As new transgenic varieties come into countries, ethical
issues arise on the side of conventional breeders in local
programs. Will conventional breeders lose their life-long
career as policy makers may opt for the new biotech cottons, or will appropriate collaborations and partnerships be
drawn up between conventional breeder and the biotech innovators? If the “elite” lines or local varieties (developed
for decades for incorporation of attributes) are not thrown
away but used for the transformation with new genes, will
conventional breeders or their domestic institutions share
royalties out of the biotech varieties?
• The number of players in the development of biotech
is expanding in the form of multinational companies. The
biotech products developed may differ in a number of
transformed genes or in their mode of action. Examples
are genes in the Monsanto Bollgard I and II vis-à-vis the
Vegetative Insecticidal Protein (VIP) biotech by Syngenta;
and the Wide Strike Cotton by Dow Agro Sciences with
Cry 1Ac and Cry 1F Bt genes against bollworms (ICAC,
2004b). When so many innovators approach new potential
users, they searouse fears over the ultimate intentions of the
proposed technology especially when the ʻnew innovationsʼ
appear similar to the policy makers who may not be familiar
with the technology details. This may also lead to “technology or partnership fatigue”. The solution to this would be
the creation of mergers among the innovators for a particular regions e.g. for East and Central Africa.
The fears about the risks of biotechnology on health and the
environment have been around for over a decade. Sciencebased studies have alleviated in fears to some extent. There
are impediments or constraints to the application of biotech
which translate into fears, especially in the developing countries. Since some of these countries are already running IPM
programs using biological control, host-plant genetic resistance in the domestic elite lines, cultural practices and other
options which have kept levels of spraying low, the use of
biotech may not be advantageous to all agricultural systems.
Such countries should be given time to develop their policies
and legal frameworks on biotechnology regulations and on intellectual properly management without pressures for hasty
decisions. Biotech may be introduced gradually as part of
IPM options. This approach would help to keep resource-poor
farmers in cotton production. Training and educating potential
users and policy makers about the intended benefits of biotech
would alleviate some of the fears and enable than to take appropriate decisions on whether to use biotech cottons or not.
Anon. 2003. BIO-EARN. Biotechnology for development. A
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Anon. 2000. UNEP/GEF Pilot Biosafety Enabling Activity Project. Uganda Biosafety Framework, Uganda National
Council for Science and Technology (UNCST).
Atikins, W. S. 2003. Uganda Review of the Proposed Biotechnology Policy and the Implications of this Policy to the Plan
for Modernization of Agriculture.
ICAC 2000. Report of the Expert Panel on Biotechnology in
Cotton. International Cotton Advisory committee. November
ICAC 1999. The ICAC Recorder, Vol. XVII, No. 2, March
Erbisch, F. H. and K. M. Maredia. 2003. Intellectual Property
Rights in Agricultural Biotechnology. 2nd Edn. Biotechnology in Agricultural, Series No. 28, CABI Publishing ISBN
Organization of African Unity (OAU 2001). The OAU Draft
Model Legislation on Safety in Biotechnology.
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, Status of ratification and entry into force, 2004.
Perlak, F. J., R. W. Deaton, T. A. Armstrong, R. L. Fuchs, S.
R. Sims, J. T. Greenplate, and D. A. Fischaff, 1990. Insect
resistant cotton plants, Biotechnology, 8 939 – 943.
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November 2004.
Russel, D. 2004. Facilitating Adoption of best agronomic
practices by small holders. ICAC 63rd Plenary meeting, Fifth
open session, December 2004, Mumbai, India.
ICAC 2004b. Update on Genetically Engineered Cotton. The
ICAC Recorder, Vol. XXII, No. 2, June 2004.
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Shen, J. L., W. J. Zhen, Y. D. Wu, X. W. Lin, D. F. Zhu, W.
J. Zhar, Y. D. Win, and X. F. Zhu. 1998. Early resistance of
Helicoverpa armigera to Bt and its relation to the effect of
transgenic cotton, Acta Entomologica sinica 41, 8– 14.
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Nine Years of Transgenic Cotton in Mexico
Jose L. Martinez-Carrillo, National Institute for Forestry, Agriculture and Livestock Research (INIFAP), Mexico
The use of transgenic crops continues to grow worldwide
and it is estimated that 67.7 million hectares were planted to
biotech varieties in 2004 by an estimated seven million farmers in 18 countries. Almost one-third of the area planted to
transgenic crops was located in developing countries. It is also
estimated that in the next five years, 10 million growers in 25
countries will grow 100 million hectares of transgenic crops
(James, 2003). Mexico has adopted this new technology, and
since its release in 1996, Bt cotton has been used by farmers
interested in obtaining better yields with reductions in pesticide use and production costs. Nine years after commercial release, biotech cotton reached 61% of 107,346 hectares planted
in Mexico in 2004/05. In some states more than 70% of the
area was planted to transgenic cotton.
Cotton production in Mexico has been influenced by international cotton prices, drought and high production costs. These
factors cause cotton area to fluctuate. In 1993, only 42,539
hectares were planted to cotton, mainly due to whitefly outbreaks observed in the early 1990ʼs (Martinez-Carrillo, 1994).
In 1994, 175,375 hectares were planted to cotton, and area
reached a peak of 314,776 hectares in 1996. This was mainly
due to an increase in prices that reached US$2.04 per kg of
lint in 1994. After 1994, cotton area and production in Mexico
decreased. By 2001/02 only 40,483 hectares were planted to
cotton, a record low. Higher prices in 2003, and better government support stimulated cotton area to 62,892 hectares and
the area grew to 107,346 hectares in 2004/05. Good yields
and better pest control have motivated growers, and another
increase in area is expected for 2005/06.
The main cotton producing states are Chihuahua, Sonora,
Baja California, Coahuila, Durango and Tamaulipas in northern Mexico. Cotton is irrigated in all these areas. In 2003/04,
Chihuahua planted 49% of the area in Mexico, Sonora, 18%,
Baja California 17% and Comarca Lagunera, (a region that
includes the states of Coahuila and Durango) 15% (Table 3).
Main Insect Pests
The key insect pests differ in each region. In Chihuahua, pink
bollworm, stink bugs, whiteflies, bollworm and tobacco budworm are important pests in the northern part of the state,
while boll weevil is the key pest in the rest of the state. In
Table 1. Transgenic Cotton in Mexico
Total Cotton Area*
BG/SF ***
% Transgenic
duced to only two applications per season (Sánchez,
2000; Nava et al., 2002).
Cotton is irrigated in the
north part of the state of Tamaulipas, whereas in the south
part it is rain feed. The key
pest is boll weevil, which is
sprayed 5 times in the north
and 15 times in the south
Tamaulipas. Other entomo* Source: Sagarpa (SIACON) ** Source: Monsanto Commercial S. A, de C.V.
logical problems include cot*** Bollgard plus Roundup Ready (known in Mexico as Bollgard Solucion Faena)
ton bollworm, tobacco bud2001, a program was initiated to suppress pink bollworm and worm, beet armyworm, whiteflies and fleahoppers, for which
boll weevil at the state level. This program was started in co- growers spray two or three times during the cotton season.
operation with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Results are encouraging and sprays for the control of key in- Transgenic Cotton in Mexico
sect pests have been reduced considerably.
Bollgard (BG) cotton which contains the Cry 1Ac toxin of
Sonora State has two main cotton producing areas that pres- Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki has been used in Mexico since
ent different characteristics, the north region, composed of 1996 when 897 hectares were planted in south Tamaulipas.
Caborca and Sonoyta, produced cotton with well irrigation, Adoption of Bt varieties has increased because of higher
and the area is arid and semiarid. The key insect pests are ly- yields, better pest control and a reduction in insecticide apgus bugs and whiteflies. The pink bollworm, cotton bollworm plications (Sanchez, 2000; Nava et al., 2002). In 1997, 8%
and tobacco budworm have been reduced with increased use of total cotton area was transgenic, 14% in 1998, 13% in
of Bt cotton. In south Sonora, the climate is semiarid, and cot- 1999, 33% in 2000, 27% in 2001, 38% in 2002, 41% in 2003
ton is irrigated by water obtained from wells. The key pest is and 61% in 2004 (Table 1). A new material that contains the
the boll weevil (Anthonomus grandis), followed by a complex BG traits and a gene that provides resistance to the herbicide
of sucking insects such as lygus bugs, cotton fleahopper Pseu- glyphosate was introduced in 1999. In Mexico, this product is
datomoscelis seriatus, and whitefly Bemisia argentifolii. The known as Bollgard “solución Faena” (BG/SF). The area under
bollworm and budworm complex, Helicoverpa zea and Helio- the stocked gene varieties increased from 25 hectares in 1999
this virescens, are also a problem during fruit formation.
to 17,327 hectares in 2004.
The Mexicali Valley is located in the state of Baja California Chihuahua had the most area planted to transgenic cotton in
where pink bollworm Pectinophora gossypiella, lygus bugs 2003/04, 37,828 hectares of which 11,574 were BG/SF. CoLygus hesperus, L. lineolaris and L. elisus, silverleaf whitefly marca Lagunera grew 11,760 hectares of transgenic cotton,
Bemisia argentifolii, Helicoverpa zea and Heliothis virescens 9,898 were BG and 1,862 were BG/SF. Sonora had 11,067
are the main pests.
hectares, 8,098 were BG and 2,969 BG/SF. Tamaulipas did
The Comarca Lagunera region integrates parts of the states
of Coahuila and Durango. This region used to have a serious
problem with pink bollworm, and farmers sprayed up to seven
times against this pest. The use of Bt cotton has drastically
reduced pink bollworm and other insect pests such as tobacco
budworm. Now, the main problems are sucking insects like
stink bugs Chlorochroa ligata and Nezara viridula, whiteflies,
aphids and cotton bollworm. However, spraying has been re-
not plant transgenic cotton, and only 7 hectares were planted
in Sinaloa as an experiment. Chihuahua planted 72% of its
area with transgenic cotton, Comarca Lagunera 76%, South
Sonora 75, North Sonora 21% and Baja California 25% in
2004/05 (Table 3). Because of the restrictions imposed by the
resistance management strategy in Mexico, a maximum of
80% of the area will be planted with transgenic cotton.
Table 2. Adoption of Bollgard and BG/SF Cotton by Region in Mexico in 2003/04
Baja California
Sonora North
Sonora South
Comarca Lagunera
After nine years of transgenic
cotton in Mexico, these materials have been accepted and
are now required by growers
to control insects, especially
pink bollworm and the complex of cotton bollworms and
tobacco budworm. Boll weevil and a complex of sucking pests such as lygus bugs,
Table 3. Transgenic Cotton Area by Region in Mexico in 2003/04
Baja California
Sonora North
Sonora South
Comarca Lagunera
Cotton Area
Percent of
Total Area
% Transgenic
stimulated growers to produce more
than 100,000 hectares of cotton in
2004/05. Good yields and better
pest control has motivated growers.
Consequently, an increase in area,
including transgenic cotton, is expected in 2005/06.
stink bugs, whiteflies and others are still a serious problem.
However, in some states as Chihuahua and Sonora an eradication program has been established for boll weevil and pink
bollworm that includes transgenic cotton, pheromones, traps
and sprays. This program is expected to reduce insect problems in cotton and thus limit production costs. The xxx that
cotton will become again an important crop in Mexico again.
James, C. 2003. Preview: Global
Status of Commercialized Transgenic Crops: 2003. ISAAA,
Briefs No. 30, ISAAA: Itaca, NY.
Nava, Camberos U., E. Valenzuela Herrera y E. López Ríos.
2002. Efectividad del algodonero transgénico para el manejo
integrado del gusano rosado en la Comarca Lagunera. Entomología Mexicana ,Vol. 1, 356-361, México.
The adoption of transgenic crops continues to grow worldwide. Transgenic technology has been accepted in Mexico,
and biotech cotton area increased from 0.3% in 1996 to 61%
in 2004/05. Since 1999, a new variety has been introduced
that contains the Cry 1Ac toxin of Bacillus thuringiensis, and
kurstaki, a gene that codifies for resistance to the herbicide
glyphosate. Higher prices and better government support
Martínez Carrillo, J. L. 1994. Problemática fitosanitaria
causada por la mosquita blanca en méxico. In: Memoria de la
Segunda asamblea anual del CONACOFI, 14-15 de noviembre, pp. 77-88, Montecillo, Edo de México.
Sánchez, A. J. 2000. Situación actual de la campaña contra las
plagas del algodonero en la Región Lagunera. In: Memorias
de la 7ª. Reunión Anual del CONACOFI, 24-25 de octubre,
Puebla, Pue. pp. 146-147.