“Seed companies must implement RIB concept immediately” 

According to Mr Prabhakar Rao, Chairman and Managing Director, Nuziveedu Seeds, the cotton sector is staring at the huge losses. He suggests certain immediate measures. Here he takes few key questions from the BioVoice

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New Delhi: The Bt cotton industry in India has been again in the news for all wrong reasons. The pink bollworm attack on the cotton crops has left the industry, farmers, as well as the government, worried about the losses.

While sharing his opinion on the issue, Mr M Prabhakar Rao, Chairman and Managing Director, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd, Hyderabad felt that seed companies must follow Refugia in Bag (RIB) concept mandated by the government to contain the problem. He also stressed on the need to develop new traits of Bt cotton in wake of resistance by pink bollworm.

Mr Mandava Prabhakar Rao  has managed the family-owned seed company since 1982 and led this company in its growth to become the largest seed company in India. The company has registered an estimated annual turnover of about Rs 1300 crores in the current year with about 20 percent share in the hybrid cotton seed market of India. Here Mr Rao, also a founder member of National Seed Association of India (NSAI) answers few questions from Rahul Koul on the issue of damage to Bt cotton due to pink bollworm and the challeges faced by the sector.

What could be the estimated financial loss to the industry due to pink bollworm attacks?

The production of cotton in 2015-16 should have reached at least 38.0 m bales from an area of 11.9 m hectares. Instead, cotton production halted at 33.8 m bales. Cotton lint yield was 482 kg per hectare. For the first time in eleven years the yield declined to less than 500 kg lint per hectare. The production losses was more than 3.5 million bales equivalent to 0.59 million of fibre worth 1.14 b US$. Even 10-15 percent yield losses on all India average, will cause a direct output loss and also losses to the investments of farmers. (Total cotton output in India is between 35-40 million bales and losses may be estimated based on Cotton bales prices). As per CICR estimate, the losses are approximately 7,000 crore.

“Some of the major challenges for the Bt Cotton industry in India include the following high labour cost for seed production and crop operations”

Is the Refugia in bag (RIB) concept to tackle the threat foolproof? How effective has it been so far?

The concept of refugia in Separate Pack (SP) as per the system in vogue is available at present to the Seed Companies. As farmers were not using the non-bt refugia seeds provided in a separate packet, due to lack of awareness, the Government of India recommended a new approach called as the RIB.

Thus, seed companies have to implement RIB immediately wherever isogenic versions of the corresponding non Bt Hybrids are available as per the choice of the seed company. RIB drives mandatory compliance for insect resistance among farmers. Therefore it is very effective. The government of India has mandated all companies to follow this concept by 2019.

What are the major challenges before the Bt Cotton industry in India?

Some of the major challenges for the Bt cotton industry in India include the following high labour cost for seed production and crop operations. There is need for new traits with sucking pest tolerance pink bollworm and other pests developing resistance to Bt traits Illegal traits such as RRflex floating in the market through unorganized sector without approval by Government of India. Breaking the productivity barriers through new approaches like biologicals, new biotech methods, etc.

VIABiovoice New Delhi Bureau
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Rahul Koul is the New Delhi-based journalist who writes on a variety of topics related to the bioscience sector. With nearly 13 years of experience in this domain, Rahul has been covering the industry and academia extensively besides contributing to many knowledge reports periodically. While being a qualified biotechnologist, he also has academic credentials in management and journalism. Rahul’s belief in acquiring knowledge through continuous learning process keeps him always ready for stimulating discussions. His assignments have taken him to different destinations within the country and abroad. He received CyberMedia Person of the Year Award (Speciality Media Group Category) for journalism successively in 2010 and 2011.