Pakistan can increase its cotton production thru biotechnology

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s cotton production has declined over the last few years. Pakistan produced 7.06 million bales of cotton in the fiscal year 2020-21, a 22% decline from 2019-20 when production was 9.14 million bales.
Pakistan can revive its cotton production using biotechnology to meet the demand for cotton in local industry and save the hard-earned reserves of the country.
While talking to WealthPK, Dr Usman Ali Abbasi, a biotechnologist working at Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, said biotechnology is the latest technology helping every sector, especially the agriculture sector.
“Biotechnology has helped to produce different genetically modified varieties of cotton-like BT cotton, which has improved cotton production,” he said.
Cotton, also known as white gold, is a cash crop in cotton-producing countries like Pakistan. It is the second-largest crop in the country, contributing massively to the economy. Textile-producing countries like Pakistan are heavily dependent on cotton to support their economies. After China, the United States, and India, Pakistan is the fourth-largest cotton producer globally. Dr Usman pointed out that Pakistan has been slow to adopt new technologies.
“In contrast to other developing economies, our agriculture is primarily rooted in traditional farming and antiquated practices. Examples of modern farming include precision agriculture and farm automation, transgenic crops, and modern greenhouses,” he said.
The livelihoods of farmers depend on the quality of crops. A number of biotic stresses, such as climate change, insects, and diseases, as well as drought and high winds, lead to poor harvests and a decrease in cotton production.
In a report released by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Pakistan’s cotton production for marketing year (MY) 2021/22 is forecast at 5.3 million 480 pounds (lb) bales, up 18% from the revised estimate for 2020/21 owing to the availability of new seed varieties, improved pest and disease management, and government support. Even though Pakistan’s cotton production remains at historic low, it is still importing large quantities of cotton to keep its textile mills humming.
Sound agronomic practices and technology can help minimize crop losses. Transgenic approaches can solve all these problems in a very effective way.
Pakistan’s slowness in adopting modernized technology was highlighted in the recent locust attack on crops. Advanced economies have shifted to drones in these situations, but Pakistan has not kept pace with the modern world.
Dr Usman said even in the case of biotechnology, despite substantial public investment in research and education of the technology, formal commercialization of biotech crops is still a long way off due to policy disconnects at various government levels.
Recent advancements in biotechnology have also significantly improved conventional plant-breeding techniques. High-yielding crops resistant to diseases, pests, and adverse weather conditions can help alleviate poverty, conserve the environment, and ensure food security – especially for developing economies. – INP