Using nuclear technology, a cost-effective and fast-growing cotton variant has been developed for the first time in the country, raising hopes for textile manufacturers who spend around Tk30,000crore on imports of the main raw material for the industry.
The new variant could be cultivated in the dry season without much effort for irrigation. Besides, it is tolerant of climate extremes.
Once it is widely used, the new variety is expected to bring about macroeconomic benefits for the country, reads a media release of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
At present, the new cotton variety is being planted at 13 different sites in Bangladesh and over 1,000 farmers are receiving training on the planting procedure.
Scientists hope that the fast pace of growth will increase yields and farmers' income by 40%.
The Cotton Development Board under the agriculture ministry now plans to disseminate the new variant in all parts of the country.
MdAkhteruzzaman, executive director of the board, told The Business Standard that the CDB has plans to distribute the seeds of the new variant among farmers across the country under 13 zones.
The new variant, named "CDB Tula M-1", is the outcome of the Cotton Development Board's "Enhancing Capacity in Cotton Varieties Development Project" which was initiated in 2016.
A team of the Cotton Development Board in collaboration with the IAEA and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has developed the variant in Bangladesh in record time, that is, just five years. The variant is more productive and has better fibre quality.
Detailing the development of the new cotton variant, the IAEA states that plant breeding is the process of exposing plant seeds, cuttings, or other planting material to radiation, such as X-rays or gamma rays.
"Induced irradiation causes changes in the DNA, mimicking the natural process of spontaneous mutations, and creates genetic diversity/variation in the cotton population," says IAEA. "The individual plants are then multiplied and examined for their traits. Those exhibiting the desired traits continue to be cultivated and multiplied so they can be distributed to farmers around the country."
13 March 2021 marked the official release and registration of the new cotton variety.
"Mutation breeding is a new area of research for us and we now have this new cotton variant, which can be grown in a short period of time," said DrMdKamrul Islam, project director of the Cotton Development Board.
"We expect this fast pace growth will increase yields and farmers' income by 40%."
The main characteristics of the developed variant are that it is early harvestable, which gives crops a minimum of 30 days earlier than other variants.
And it is suitable for high-density planting because it takes less space but ends up with high production, said Kamrul Islam.
Usually, a 90-centimetre row-to-row and 45-centimetre plant-to-plant distance is required for other variants' yields. However, the new variant requires only a 70-centimetre row-to-row and 30-centimetre plant-to-plant distance.
The project director said the potential yield from the new variant is around 5.5 tonnes whereas other variants' yields amount to only four tonnes per hectare.
Stakeholders said that due to a lack of sufficient, high-quality domestic supply, the cotton industry is currently dependent on imports.
At present, the country has a demand of around 75 bales of cotton annually, of which only 2.35% is being produced in the country.
In fiscal 2019-20, around 71 lakh bales of cotton were imported from abroad, mainly from India, Mali, the USA and Brazil.