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Cottonseed crisis feared during Kharif




  • SEED is the most important of all agricultural inputs affecting the efficiency of other factors in farming. Accordingly, the importance of genetically pure and certified seed cannot be underestimated. Keeping this fact in view the provincial government established the Sindh Seed Corporation (SSC) in July 1976. Due to inefficiency and corruption the organization became non-functional with the passage of time. Reportedly, the provincial government is striving for its resurrection. The main functions of the SSC are:
    Procurement of quality pre-basic seeds of cotton, paddy and wheat from the agriculture research centres.
    Production of basic seed at the Seed Corporation farm.
    Multiplication of pre-basic seed of cotton, paddy and wheat at basic seed farms of the SSC located both in lower and upper Sindh.
    Processing of seed at the processing plant.
    Storage/marketing and distribution of seeds.
    As a matter of fact prior to introduction of the Cotton Leaf Curl Virus (CLCV) disease in Sindh till 1995, the SSC was functional with Niab-78, the CIM-109 and some cotton varieties developed at the PCC Sakrand, and the Cotton Research Institutes of Agricultural Department at Tandojam. However, Niab-78 was the main variety covering over 80 per cent of the cotton acreage in Sindh. Unfortunately like other varieties, Niab-78 also fell victim to the CLCV disease firstly in Punjab then in Sindh, especially since 1996.
    Following widespread attack of the CLCV during 1998 farmers started switching over to the CLCV tolerant varieties developed in cotton research institutes of Punjab. As a matter of fact it was the beginning of the doomsday for the SSC. This is because of the failure of research institutes to develop any CLCV tolerant cotton variety exhaust the only source of getting pre-basic seed and its multiplication at basic seed farms of the SSC. Since neither the research institutes nor the SSC had to offer any CLCV tolerant varieties, the cotton growers of Sindh became almost fully dependent on the varieties developed in Punjab.
    Thus having no alternatives, the Agriculture Department of Sindh allowed three CLCV tolerant varieties VIZ: CIM-443, CIM-446, and CIM-448 from Punjab in late 1990’s. Few years back some more varieties of the Punjab cotton were approved for cultivation in Sindh. These are CIM-473, CIM-499 and FH-901. But the ground reality is that today a number of other varieties developed in Punjab are openly sold in Sindh. These are FH-1000, CIM-446, CIM-511, Niab-111, CIM-109, SLS-1 etc. Without an approval, the Sindh government could not stop the sale of verieties if it is registered with the Federal Seed Certification Department. This situation has created almost a free-for-all like situation in seed sector. It is the poor grower who is the worst sufferer. The reason being dependence of majority growers on the dealers who supply them all inputs viz: seed, fertilizer and pesticide on credit.
    Since beggars can’t be the choosers, poor growers have to accept what is offered by their dealers. After non-functioning of the SSC, the business is handled mostly by private seed companies which are 80 per cent Punjab based.
    Apart from the companies, the business is also handled by the ginning factories, progressive growers and agro-dealers who supply inputs viz: seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides to financially constrained growers on credit. This sector covers almost 30 to 40 per cent of the demand as growers get it on price less than 50 per cent of the certified seeds of registered seed companies.
    The modus operandi is that puhtti (seed cotton) of first and second picking is kept with the ginning factories. At the end of the ginning season factories prepare seeds mostly in February to March.
    This winter, week long rains and cloudy weather during the first week of February proved lethal for phutti stock meant for seed preparation. The survey of ginning factories in Khairpur and Sukkur indicated that the rains damaged the germination percentage of cotton seeds. Majority of lots examined were found with not more than 50 per cent germination percentage. The Federal Seed Certification Department also confirmed the damage of seed quality.
    The varieties damaged are mostly Niab-78 and CIM-109 whose cultivation in Punjab is banned. However, these two varieties are very popular among the growers as they give good yield under the climate of district; Khairpur, Sukkur and Ghotki inspite of its susceptibility to the CLCV disease.
    Since winter rains have affected the germination percentage of seeds prepared in February, growers are advised to undertake germination test prior to the purchase of seeds, especially of Niab-78 and CIM-109 from their suppliers. Seed rate should be linked to the ratio of damaged seeds at the time of sowing.
    In view of pink boll worm infestation to newly introduced cotton seeds from Punjab, the growers of Sindh should undertake acid delinting of seeds prior to sowing.
    To discourage behind-the-door sale of some unapproved varieties, especially CIM-496 on higher rate the Agriculture Department of Sindh should accord approval of this new high yielding variety during Kharif 2004. The performance of CIM-496 was reported to be the best among new verities of Punjab by the majority growers in upper Sindh region.
    The Agriculture Department should arrange screening of both approved and unapproved cotton varieties of Punjab, presently under cultivation in the province. Those found giving good yield and less susceptible to pests should be given approval and the rest be banned.

    Courtesy: The DAWN

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