Punjab Agricultural University in Ludhiana has announced that it has developed country's first genetically-modified (Bt) varieties of cotton — the seeds of which could be reused by farmers, resulting in saving the repeated cost they have to bear every season. Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has identified three Bt cotton varieties — namely PAU Bt 1, F1861 and RS 2013 — for cultivation in states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. The notification of release regarding these varieties could be out by as early as next month after ICAR's scheduled meeting. Meanwhile, the process for multiplying the seeds would be started, it is learnt.
PAU Bt 1 and F 1861 were developed by PAU, whereas, RS 2013 was developed at Rajasthan Agricultural University (RAU), Bikaner. While the PAU Bt 1 was completely developed at Punjab Agricultural University, the F 1861 and RS 2013 varieties were converted to Bt version by Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur. All the three varieties carry ''cry1Ac'' gene imparting resistance against bollworm complex.
With the cultivation of these varieties, it is learnt the cotton farmers will not have to purchase the costly Bt cotton hybrid seed every year. The farmers can keep their own harvest for next sowing season. Bt cotton hybrids became popular due to ‘Bt technology’ which imparts resistance to bollworms, which are a major cause of yield loss in cotton. With the adoption of these new Bt varieties by the farmers, a major shift is likely to take place in cotton cultivation in northern States.
Cotton is the only genetically-modified seed that is legally allowed in India. Punjab alone needs around 20-25 lakh packets of Bt cotton seed for sowing of crop which roughly amounts to around Rs 225 crore. The price of seed of these Bt cotton varieties shall much lower as compared to current market price of Bt cotton hybrids seed, and thus, there is a scope to reduce the cost of cultivation and increase the savings of the farmers, according to PAU sources.