Stakeholders Engage Cotton Farmers on Bt. Cotton Importance, Adoption

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By Ene Okwanihe

Stakeholders in biotechnology have engaged cotton farmers in Nigeria at a one training workshop on the importance of adopting the Genetically Modified Bt cotton to farmers, textile industry and the Nigerian economy.

The workshop was organized by the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB) in Africa, Nigeria Chapter in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) with the theme “Grass Root Engagement for Sustainable, Commercialization of Bt. Cotton” in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

The workshop seeks to provide education to counter misinformation and increase understanding of crop varieties improved using biotechnology, to collect the experiences of farmers and communities where Bt. cotton has been adopted and relates these success stories to the broader community in Nigeria, West Africa, and globally.

While delivering his keynote address the Director General of the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) Professor Abdulahi Mustapha highlighted some of the benefits of the Bt. cotton to farmers and the Nigerian economy.

According to him the role Bt. Cotton plays in reviving Nigeria’s economy cannot be overemphasized. “It can produce 4.1 to 4.4 tonnes per hectare, compared to the local variety, which yields just 600 to 900 kilograms per hectare. Since Bt. cotton can resist the devastating bollworm and tolerate sucking insects, it will help farmers reduce their use of pesticides, thus minimizing environmental impacts and lowering production costs. Professor Mustapha stated that the varieties of Bt. cotton are suitable for cultivation in all of Nigeria’s cotton growing zones noting that aside the pest-resistant traits, the Bt. cotton offers early maturity, fiber length of 30.0 to 30.5 millimeters and fiber strength of 26.5 to 27.0g/tex (tenacity) and micronaire (strength) of 3.9 to 4.1.”

All this he said would save farmers the trouble of contending with the local conventional variety, which is no longer accepted at the international markets.

Speaking to journalists on the sideline of the training, the country Coordinator of OFAB-Nigeria Dr. Rose Gidado said aside from making the Bt. cotton seeds available to farmers, there’s also the need to train them best practices to further enhance its performance.

“The significance of the training the farmers, give them more information, more knowledge on farm management practice because that is the most important thing, even if the seed is improved for a trait, either to be resistant to an insect or to be tolerant to herbicides spray or to be drought tolerant whatever it is that you have done for you to realise the kind of yields that you as a farmer would like to have, you have to do good agricultural practice”

Dr.GIDADO noted that after visiting farmers on their farms they came to a conclusion that farmers needed training on how to effectively apply the Bt. cotton seed to achieve maximum yield.

A participant Isah Musa, a cotton farmer and the coordinator Cotton Association Gwagwalada chapter of the Federal Capital Territory, says the training has exposed him to the Bt. cotton variety and its importance to the Nigerian economy.

He added that the training would go a long way in improving his knowledge of cotton farming especially in the area of applying best agronomy best practices.

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