A combination of mechanisation and high-density planting system (HDPS) is the way forward for Indian cotton, which is witnessing either stagnation or decline in yields.

The Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), the premier cotton research agency that works under the ICAR, is developing scalable models tailored to the needs of different soil types in the country.

“The cost of labor is very high in cotton. The availability of labor is very scarce. We need to go for mechanized harvesting to address the challenge,” YG Prasad, Director of ICAR-CICR, told businessline.

Prasad was in the city to attend the International Conference on Vegetable Oils 2023 last week.

“Though machines are available, there are certain issues that we need to address. The percentage of impurities is about 7-8 per cent in machine harvested cotton, which is very high, against 1-2 per cent in manual harvesting,” he said.

“It should be not more than 3 per cent in order to protect the profitability of farmers,” he said.

High density planting

On the scope of HDPS, which is being experimented in states like Telangana, Prasad said it is the way forward for the cotton in shallow areas that account for about 4 million hectares in the country.

Productivity is declining in those areas. We need to go there with targeted agro-ecology model with an aim to increase the yields,” he said.

When asked about the availability of varieties that offer uniform height (to make it easier for mechanized harvesting), the CICR Director said that standardized canopic management protocols are ready. “There are a host of set practices that regulate the height of the plant,” he said.

Prasad also called for tailor-made approaches to grow cotton in different soil types. What is happening is a genotype with high productivity but a very long duration is being pushed into areas that don’t support such kind of length (of the crop). We are wasting nutrients and water in such cases,” he pointed out.

He suggested different approaches for medium, deep soils and irrigated areas in order to maximize benefits and reduce costs of production.

The CICR is working on scalable technology models to increase productivity in cotton, which has become a cause of concern among the farmers and other stakeholders.

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