Adoption of the Bollgard-II version of the genetically modified (GM) cotton has increased four-fold since its commercial launch in 2006. Improved yield and better control of pests have resulted in the cotton area under the variety rising to 45 lakh acres.
Of the total 172 lakh acres under Bt cotton cultivation, farmers cultivated Bollgard-II in 45.1 lakh acres and Bollgard in 127.2 lakh acres during the kharif 2007-08 season, said Mahyco Monsanto Biotech, a 50:50 joint venture between Maharashtra-based seed firm Mahyco and global seed giant Monsanto.
Farmers are shifting from Bollgard to Bollgard-II as they need to spray pesticide once in a season compared with Bollgard, where it requires more than one spray. It is worse in the case of traditional cotton, where farmers spray between six and 10 times a season.
Monsanto’s Bollgard was the first GM crop, which is popularly known as Bt cotton, to get the regulatory approval for commercial cultivation in India in 2002. According to data provided by Monsanto, the adoption of Bollgard-II in Maharashtra – the top cotton-producing state – was the highest at 21 lakh acres, followed by Andhra Pradesh at 8.4 lakh acres and Gujarat at 5.3 lakh acres.
The acceptance of Bollgard-II is increasing in farmers as they realise that apart from protecting against bollworm attacks, Bollgard-II also gives additional protection against spodoptera, an army worm, Monsanto officials said.
On a field visit to the Mansa district in Punjab, a 40-year-old cotton farmer, Rajender Singh, shared: “I have grown Bollgard-II in three acres of land and saw better yield than Bollgard this year.”
Bollgard-II is priced at Rs 950 for 450 grams, while Bollgard costs Rs 750 for the same quantity. A 37-year-old Mewa Singh from Gagrana village, Mansa, also shared similar views, “Bollgard-II has given relief to us as it has better pest-resistance management and requires one or no pesticide sprays on the crop.”
In Punjab, where Bt cotton is grown in 87 per cent of the total cotton area, farmers have adopted Bollgard-II in 1.9 lakh acres and Bollgard in 7.3 lakh acres. A similar situation prevails in Haryana as well, company executives said.
But due to less crop loss to pests, a farmer gains 11-12 quintal an acre from Bollgard-II compared with 8-10 quintal an acre from Bollgard. Approximately 4 million farmers have adopted the first-generation Bollgard cotton in 127 lakh acres and Bollgard-II in 45 lakh acres this year, company executives said, adding that farmers in Punjab, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra adopted Bollgard-II this year as their crop had suffered spodoptera attacks last year.
Mahyco Monsanto Biotech India sells the GM cotton seeds to local farmers through its licensees as the company has provided the technology to 23 Indian seed companies.