Stung by the whitefly attack that caused heavy crop losses last year, a section of farmers in North India mainly in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan have preferred to plant the desi or indigenous cotton varieties.
As a result, areas that grow desi cotton varieties has grown manifold and the acreage is at a decade high, although the overall area under the fibre crop this year has declined to 30 per cent in the region where the Kharif planting has ended. KR Kranthi, Director of Nagpur-based Central Institute for Cotton Research (CICR) informs desi cotton has been planted on about 72,280 hectares in North India this kharif. Last year, the acreage under desi cotton in the region had barely touched 3,000 hectares, and in the last 10 years, it had not exceeded 5,000 hectares.”
Desi cotton, which is resistant to dreaded disease like leaf curl virus and pest attacks such as whiteflies, accounted for 7 per cent of the total cotton acreage of 10.17 lakh hectares in North India this year. The expectations is acreages under desi cotton to increase to 25 per cent in the next two to three years. The acreage could have gone up further, if more seeds were available to the farmers this year.
Despite lower cultivation costs compared to the Bt varieties, the short staple length is seen as a disadvantage for the desi cotton. The short staple and coarse desi variety cotton is mostly being used as surgical cotton due to its better absorption capacity and also in making denim.