‘Pests, climate change and yield key worries’

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Experts concerned about stagnant yield in India

Climate change, insects and lower yield have emerged as top three big challenges that global cotton sector would have to battle for in the coming decade.

Researchers and experts from International Cotton Advisory Committee (ICAC) were unanimous in raising concerns about the impact of poor yield, prevalent diseases, climate change and competition with man-made fibres as some of the top challenges for cotton crop during the decade through 2030.

Thirteen eminent cotton scientists — awarded by ICAC as Researcher of the year since 2009 — provided the outlook in an ICAC document — Cotton Vision 2030.

“The idea is to provide intellectual leads on the current and the possible future challenges for the younger generation of cotton scientists,” said Keshav Kranthi, head of ICAC’s Technical Information Section.

India & Africa

Kranthi stated that data showed that global cotton yield has been stagnant over the past 15 years (2004-09). The average cotton yield during this period was 773 kg lint per hectare (kg/ha). The concern areas are Africa and India, where cotton yields have remained stagnant and have been less than half of the yields harvested in rest of the world.

The two regions occupy more than half of the global cotton area of about 34.2 million hectares (2019), but contributed only 30 per cent (7.9 million tonnes) to the global production of 26.1 million tonnes.

Kranthi, former director at Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR)-Nagpur, advocated for novel production techniques that can break yield barriers. High density planting for Africa and India, Regenerative agricultural techniques for soil health management, Ecological engineering techniques for biotic and abiotic stress management may be adopted.

Second crucial challenge is the climate change. The strategies that could reduce the impact of climate change on cotton include breeding heat-tolerant cultivars, enhance soil health and reduce dependence on chemical inputs, Kranthi suggested.

Man-made yarn

Cotton scientist from US, Fred Bourland, said: however, highlighted another major challenge i.e. competition with man-made yarn, which would pose a challenge to get competitive price for cotton. “Man-made yarns contribute far more pollution to the air and water than do cotton yarns do. Enhanced communication of these inherent problems of man-made yarns and the inherent advantages of cotton should increase the demand for cotton over man-made yarns,” he informed.

Australian cotton researcher Greg Constable also stated: “Competition with synthetic fibres is a challenge for cotton in terms of price, demand, reputation and marketing.”

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