GM-Cotton now cultivated in over 95% of the 13 million ha area across 10 cotton growing states is credited with both quantitative and qualitative transformation of cotton production in the counry. In a span of 10 years after its introduction, Bt cotton recorded the highest growth rate (CAGR) of 2.78% in area (7.6 to >12.2 m ha), 4.43% in production (136 to 370 lakh bales) and 1.82% in yield (300 to 552 kg lint/ha). Peak production and productivity was witnessed in 2013-14 season (~390 lakh bales) and again in 2019-20 season (~360 lakh bales). However, in recent years, cotton area, production and productivity exhibited fluctuations / declining trend with significantly lower production at 311 lakh bales during 2021-22 season.
This has led to a disruption in the cotton supply/value chain. Like in any crop, cotton productivity is also influenced by both genotype and environment interactions.Climate change and variability in rainfed areas (67%), increased frequency of extreme weather events and pest outbreaks in recent years have equally contributed to lower cotton production.
Research on Cotton at ICAR-CICR continues to focus on innovations in crop improvement, crop production and crop protection aspects to enhance cotton productivity, develop technologies for resource conservation, increase resource use efficiency and eco-friendly crop protection.
After the advent of Bt-cotton in 2002, breeding efforts have largely focussed on development of non-GM varieties/ hybrids (303 varieties & 86 hybrids). Efforts to develop GM-cotton in varietal background led to release of 18 Bt-cotton varieties. The All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) on Cotton facilitated the release of 132 Bt hybrids, 19 non-Bt hybrids, 9 desi arboreum hybrids and inter-specific H x B non-Bt hybrids.
Currently, medium to long duration hybrids are cultivated under rainfed conditions of Central and South zone (in about 3.8 million ha, 28% of total area) on shallow to medium deep black soils and red soils at low plant densities (12000 to 18000 plants/ha). The crop suffers from moisture stress leading to low productivity. Popularizing high density planting system (HDPS) with early maturing (150-160 days) Bt varieties/hybrids is a way out for increasing productivity.
Enhancing cotton productivity and profitability is the primary focus for cotton researchers and industry. About 60 lakh farmers are involved in cotton farming. Land holding is small and marginal (<2 ha). Awareness creation and demonstrations on scalable yield enhancing technologies is key in such a cotton scenario.
Realizing the importance, ICAR-CICR will be taking up large scale demonstrations on HDPS and extra-long staple (ELS) cotton in the ensuing season (2023-24) adopting a cluster and value chain approach through Public-Private-Partnership. I am happy to share that ICAR-CICR and its research network will be partnering with textile industry partners (CITI CD&RA, SIMA CD &RA), seed industry associations (FSII and NSAII), state departments of agriculture-ATMA, ATARI-Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs) and Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) in targeting scalable technologies to agroecology to achieve targeted enhancement in cotton productivity.