Trial of new cotton variety positive in 3 northern regions; But no commercialisation yet

BY: Charles Benoni Okine
Dr Emmanuel Chamba

A scientist at the Yam and Cotton Breeding Programme of the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute (SARI), Dr Emmanuel Chamba, has confirmed that Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton trials in the three northern regions of the country have yielded positive results.

“What we did was that we had a quarter hectare Bt cotton and a quarter hectare non-Bt cotton lying side by side. We did that in six locations in the three northern regions,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra about the progress made so far with the confined field trials of Bt cotton in the country, he said although the results were positive, the necessary procedures would have to be carried through to get the Bt cotton seeds commercialised.

“The farmers are eager for the seeds to plant because of the high yields and the cost-effectiveness involved, but ours is to do the investigations and present the findings to the National Bio-Safety Authority for advice on the way forward,” he said.

Farmers anxious

There are reports from the three northern regions that some farmers have sidestepped the regulatory system to plant Bt cotton seeds they brought in from Burkina Faso and are recording positive yields.

This is in spite of the trials being undertaken to ensure that all the safety precautions are undertaken to avoid any negative impact on the environment.

However, those involved in the planting were of the view that since Ghana and Burkina faso shared almost the same climatic conditions, there was no need to drag the process and, thus, called for the processes to be fast-tracked to have the seeds released before the close of the year.

Earlier in the interview, Dr Chamba confirmed how the farmers were anxious to get the Bt cotton seeds after the trials conducted in the six locations proved positive.

“But like I said, we had to ask them to calm down to have the processes completed and for the National Bio-Safety Authority to take a decision on the commercialisation,” he said.

Field trials

According to Dr Chamba, while trying the Bt cotton seeds, “we sprayed the Bt cotton two times only as compared to the six times we did for the non-Bt (conventional) cotton.

“So with the Bt, it was proven how farmers can cut down their spraying cost; how they will also reduce the impact of the chemicals on their environment  and again how farmers will be able to save time.”

In terms of yield, he said, “In fact in all the locations we tried, the yield of the Bt cotton was higher than the conventional with an exception of one location where the farmer could not go according to instructions.”

State of cotton

On the state of cotton in the country, he said, “Well currently it is not as we expect because invariably, there is very little cotton going on in the country.”

He said there was an attempt by the government to revive it and as a result “some zoning of the production sector was done and three companies; Amajaro Cotton Company, Wienco Cotton Company and also Olam were selected.”

Unfortunately, Dr Chamba said all these companies pulled out “and so there is no production; only Wienco is attempting because it has put cotton under its maize programme.”

He said the GM cotton seed was still under investigation at the research institute because “you cannot bring GM cotton seed and start planting as per our laws.”

Dr Chamba was, however, confident that things would work for the better but could not tell exactly when.