Variety will be on the market next year
There are reports of a new variety of cotton developed by the IAR, can we learn more about this development?
We recently released two varieties of cotton BT. These varieties have a high yield. Our current varieties give a maximum of 1.5 tons per hectare. One of the new varieties gives 4.1 tons per hectare, and the other – 4.4 tons. This is a remarkable achievement in the sense that it revolutionized the cotton industry in Nigeria.
When the present administration entered, the president was very keen on reviving the cotton, textile and clothing industries. He set up a committee to determine the pace of the revival of these industries. Several cities in Nigeria are what they have in terms of growth due to the cotton and textile industries. Kaduna is one of the examples. The city of Kaduna is largely populated by cotton workers and their families. However, this industry is now dying. This is due to the fact that the textile and cotton industries have declined.
One way to revive the production of cotton is the cultivation of improved varieties of cotton. Worldwide, large cotton ginning zones, such as Sudan, thrive as a result of the production of cotton BT. Today, Sudanese farmers produce 100% cotton, and because of this, cotton production contributes to their growth.
If you go to places like India and Bangladesh, where the textile and clothing industry uses millions of people; they rely on the production of cotton BT.
Precisely because of the above, when a company from India, Makhiko, started working with IAR to develop commercial BT cotton; we enthusiastically embraced it. We felt that this would help the development of our country, and our farmers will make money. They brought four varieties that we tried in the Nigerian states of Adamava, Gombe, Bauchi, Kacin, Kebbi, Niger, Nasarava, Abuja, Oyo and Ogun. We found that they are extremely producing higher yields than our own varieties.
We agreed to experiment with these species from India, because our institute has a genetic mandate for the improvement, production and marketing of cotton in Nigeria. We tested these new varieties, and they did very well. One produced an average of 4.1 tons, and the other produced 4.4 tons per hectare.
In addition to harvest, these cotton grades have quality. They are called long staple claps, which are claps that can be used in five textures. They are used in the production of textile materials that are of high quality, like what women call English, Super and Dutch waxes. Our textile industry is looking for these cotton varieties. In addition, as a rule, in the production of cotton, the main biotic traces are diseases and insertions. These new varieties can withstand some of these tracks.
These varieties have some built-in resistance to pests. The beauty is that it will reduce the cost of cotton production. The cost of spraying with insecticides and pesticides can be saved, since cotton requires many sprays of pesticides. This will also help in maintaining the environment. These chemicals have some residual effect on humans, because they are poisons, and that's why they kill insects.
What happened after the trial?
The National Biosafety Agency, with the responsibility to ensure that any genetic material that was brought into the country safely, has confirmed that these BT-cotton are safe for Nigeria after we submitted them. So, now we have a clean account for release and commercialization.
Based on this certification, we took them to the National Variety Committee (NVRC), which is also a committee of all stakeholders, such as scientists, seed industry, a biosafety agency and others. When they saw the excellent performance of varieties, they allowed us to produce and commercialize them in cooperation with Mahyco Seed Company from India. The company will be responsible for the commercialization of varieties.
Can we say that these varieties are foreign and in fact have not been developed by IAR ……
Yes, they are from India. In improvement, there are two ways to do this. First, when you receive improved varieties, it is the scientist's duty to try them in his country, to transfer them to his growing state, and when he finds them suitable, he will release them.
Two, you can bring improved varieties and do some scientific crosses. For example, you bring an improved variety from a certain country, and you understand that because of the country's soil or climate conditions this happens, it may not be adopted here, but it has good flows, you can transfer these streams to varieties that are here are applicable.
For example, if after the test we found out that they are not adopted here, but they have these BT-clips that are useful for us, we can transfer these threads to our varieties and release them.
What contribution have you made to these species that will convince the Nigerian farmers that these species are now Nigerian?
In science, when you receive varieties, we expose them to breeders. Therefore, we must characterize varieties. We did it. Testing varieties does not mean they are just landing. This is done scientifically. There is something we call experimental design; otherwise you would not be able to determine that these varieties are better than our own varieties. Therefore, the varieties passed all of our scientific methods and protocols before we became convinced that they are more effective than our own. We have entomologists led by a professor and other specialists who worked on these varieties before they were released.
We also need to know that BT is a cotton gene that resists insects. That's why this cotton is different from ours. This resistance, which gives this cotton superiority yield. These varieties are hybrid, and BT distinguishes them from others. That's why we also come up with BT-Vignou, because one of the main problems of our cow is an insect. In the cowpea we brought only the gene and transferred it to our Wigner, and this study took almost 10 years.
Studies on cotton did not take long to wait, because we already had cotton, which was included in childbirth. This made research easier, and that's why this study took only two years.
Farmers need to know what they need to successfully produce BT cotton?
In addition to BT, these varieties are cotton. Thus, all agronomic practices should be observed. Cotton is usually planted for a month or until June. Late planting reduces yield. Under no circumstances should a farmer exceed June before planting his cotton, because this is a plant that has been left on the field for a long time. Maturation is required from 140 to 150 days. Farmers in Kaduna, Kacin and other states find it difficult to spend four or five months of effective sedimentation. Therefore, farmers should immediately plant their cotton when rain is set.
After plowing and harrowing, the farmer makes his ridges in the field of a standard distance of 75 cm. The farmer puts his cotton in the space from 30 to 40 cm from each other. Thus, the farmer needs from 15 to 20 kg of seeds per hectare, and the germination of seeds should be 80 percent. This means that the farmer must be very careful when choosing his seed.
Cotton is only needed NPK 15:15:15 and requires about five bags per hectare. Weeding should be carried out regularly. Farmers should not leave their cotton in the weeds. Farmers can use chemicals to kill weeds so that their cotton can grow without much stress. If you successfully follow all these processes, what will remain is harvesting. Harvesting of cotton is usually done by handicraft. But there are mechanical means of collecting cotton. Our engineering department develops mechanical cotton pickers so that farmers can easily collect cotton and reduce losses.
How will BT cotton change the economic base of farmers?
Any farmer capable of producing four tons of cotton per hectare; he is in business. This makes agriculture a real business, not just a natural economy. Moving from 1.5 tons to 4 tons is a remarkable leap. With this development, farmers will smile at the banks.
Are these new varieties of cotton on the market?
No, we did not start releasing them to farmers. When we say that varieties are produced, scientifically we do not mean farmers. Before any variety can be taken by farmers, it must be officially released by the National Committee for the production of variety art. If you go to Sudan, for example, get cotton seeds and deliver it to Nigeria and start using it, you are involved in an illegal act. For farmers, in order to obtain any new variety, it must be tested and convinced by the research institute that it is suitable for Nigeria.
For example, the IAR has a genetic mandate for the improvement, production and marketing of corn, cowpea, peanuts, sorghum, cotton, jatropa, artemisia, sunflower and castle. Thus, any variety of these crops that will be used by Nigerian farmers must be examined by the IAR, and when we are convinced that these varieties are better than the real varieties, then we send them to the National Variety Committee. It was at a time when NVRC was convinced that new varieties would increase the value of the agricultural sector, and would enable them to supply new varieties to farmers.
Then, when farmers are probably going to get these new varieties of cotton?
I hope, early next year. In addition to cotton BT, IAR makes every effort to improve the varieties used by our farmers to increase their production. IAR managed to produce at least 52 varieties of corn, including those that ripen within 60 days, as well as those that contain protein and vitamin A. We also produced prunes and tolerated corn. We made many attempts in the field of sorghum, cowpea, jatropa.